‘Real rush’ of Trump rules expected in case he loses in 2020

Food stamps, transgender health care, climate rules on chopping block

By: - January 3, 2020 6:28 am

Former President Donald J. Trump waves as he boards Air Force One Saturday, Dec. 14 2019, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. for his flight to Philadelphia, Pa., to attend the 120th Army-Navy football game. | Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian via Flickr Public Domain

WASHINGTON — The President Trump administration is preparing to finalize a host of high-profile rules in 2020, including policies that will impact everything from auto emissions to food stamp access.

With the November presidential election approaching, the administration is widely expected to make a push to wrap up pending regulations early in 2020 in an effort to bolster those rules against a possible Democratic administration that may seek to unravel Trump’s policies. 

The EPA on March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.

“There’s going to be a real rush this spring,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a limited-government advocacy group. 

Ebell led the Trump administration’s transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following Trump’s 2016 election. “They want to get everything final and the litigation started before mid-May,” he added. 

If Trump loses in the November contest, his opponents would likely try to halt regulations using legislative and legal tools. Congress can overturn recently finalized rules, and the executive branch can move to walk back rules that are mired in court challenges. 

In the coming months, “There’s probably going to be a push [by the Trump administration] to try to finalize anything that’s already been proposed,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory expert at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.

Trump administration officials have been effective at overturning the work of their predecessors. 

U.S. President Barack Obama signs a presidential memorandum for overtime protections for workers during an event in the East Room at the White House, on March 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

With the help of the GOP-led Congress in the first two years, the administration effectively torpedoed a slew of President Obama-era regulations. After Trump’s inauguration, GOP lawmakers used the Congressional Review Act to overturn 16 Obama rules, according to the Center for Progressive Reform. That law had been used only once before that, when the President George W. Bush administration overturned a President Bill Clinton-era rule dealing with workplace safety.  

Regulatory experts predict the administration is working hard behind the scenes to ensure that their own policies aren’t as vulnerable. Trump’s roadmap was laid out in a recent regulatory timeline, which estimates the dates for finalizing federal agencies’ rules. 

Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy Trump regulations expected in 2020: 

Food stamp restrictions 

The Trump administration came under fire for critics in December when it finalized one of three rules expected to dramatically reduce access to food stamps nationwide. 

The administration is also expected to finalize the elimination of another policy that allows people to automatically qualify for food stamps if they receive certain other benefits. A third food stamp proposal would change how utility costs factor into benefit calculations.

Trump administration food stamp rule could kick millions off program

Combined, the administration’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules could lead to 3.7 million fewer people receiving food stamp benefits nationwide, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. 

In Michigan, roughly 180,000 would lose SNAP benefits, as the Advance previously reported.

The two additional policies are expected to be finalized in May, according to the administration’s timeline. 

Climate rule rollback

The administration is expected to soon finalize its overhaul of Obama-era greenhouse gas limits and fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks. Trump officials have called the Obama policy too costly, but the revisions have drawn a backlash from environmentalists and other critics. 

The final regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are expected in April, according to the administration’s timeline. The administration proposed freezing fuel economy standards through 2026 — reversing a major Obama climate rule that would have forced automakers to dramatically boost their fleets’ fuel economy by 2025. 

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Trump’s final rules are expected to modestly boost fuel efficiency in comparison with the proposal, Reuters reported, but the requirements are still expected to be far weaker than the Obama rules. 

Health care

Early in 2020, the Trump administration is planning to finalize its rollback of an Obama-era rule barring health care providers from discriminating against transgender people. 

The Obama administration rule barred discrimination based on “gender identity,” but the Trump administration’s draft replacement rule asserts that federal laws banning sex discrimination in health care don’t apply to people’s “gender identity,” NBC reported

Column: Transgender people are Americans, too. It’s time we pass the Equality Act.

Critics of the draft policy from the Department of Health and Human Services warn that it will hinder access to medical care for transgender people. The Obama rule bans health insurers from restricting services that help people transition from one gender to another, according to the New York Times. 

Campus sexual assault 

A contentious rule dealing with campus sexual assault is also expected to be issued soon. 

The final rule from the Education Department is expected to give new rights to students accused of sexual assault, the Washington Post reported in November. 

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U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a Michigan native, said when she issued the proposal, “Every survivor of sexual violence must be taken seriously, and every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.” 

Opponents of the policy have warned that it’ll prevent reporting of sexual assault and harassment and won’t do enough to protect women on campuses. The final rule was slated for release in November 2019, according to the regulatory calendar, but has been delayed. 

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.