At about 4pm yesterday, NPR and the Associated Press ran an article on the reaction of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to statements Donald Trump made just weeks before his election. These statements include his plans for his first 100 days in office. For many, this plan is the Freddie Kruger on top of an already hellish nightmare, but it is important to view Mr. Trump’s ideas objectively and openly… so here it goes:
In the spirit of starting somewhere rather safe, Trump proposes the institution of congressional term limits. In his 100 day plan, which he calls his “Contract With The American Voter”, Mr. Trump starts off first with promising to propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on congress. While he doesn’t provide much in the way of context on this topic, he clearly states that this, above anything else is his first priority.
Now, before partisan politics kicks in and makes you automatically opposed to this proposal, perhaps we owe Mr. Trump’s proposal an open mind. Currently, Senators and Congressmen are not limited in any way as to how many times they can run, and because of this, many of our legislators have made decades long careers out of law making in Washington. At the time of his passing in 2012, Daniel K. Inouye had served in the Senate for 49 years, and prior to that he spent 4 years as a Congressmen in the house of representatives. Similarly, John McCain, who was just elected to his 6th Senate term will, by 2022 have served in the U.S. Senate for 36 years.
While long tenures aren’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that a portion of the legislative process becomes a bit stale. In some ways it seems pretty logical, if the lawmakers are only able to make the laws for 12 years, there will be a constant change in the system. You might see policy keep up with the social, economic, and developmental changes of the nation, right? And more importantly, you won’t see people serving in Congress till they are 90 years old and too ill or frail to actually be much more than a figure head.
So, Mr. Trump seems to have his finger on the pulse with many Americans with this one, most people think term limits would be alright. There’s only one tiny problem… Donald Trump, even if he’s president, cannot simply propose a Constitutional Amendment (thank god!). Article 5 of the US Constitution clearly lays out two methods for proposing amendments the constitution, and the president is involved in neither of them. So, in order to achieve his #1 first priority, Trump would need to go to Congress, and genuinely, I wish him luck with that.
Another problem with Mr. Trump’s term limit proposal idea is that there is a legal precedent working against him. In U.S. Term Limits v Thorton (1995), the Supreme Court ruled that term limits cannot be imposed by states, and in that same year, when a Republican Congressman attempted to propose a term limits amendment to the constitution, it was met with little to no support. It is important to understand that to impose term limits on Congress, one would have to convince Congress that they cannot be lifelong politicians, and somehow convincing people in power to limit their own power in large numbers always seems to hit a snag somewhere.
Moving on to Mr. Trumps’s priority #2, “a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition”. Well… I said we would start with something easy, I didn’t say we would stay there. First, let me clarify (in plain English) what this means: Mr Trump is essentially proposing that he will not hire any more federal employees, in an effort to diminish the federal work force. Essentially put so much strain on federal workers that they either quit or are laid off. Now, the 114th Congress entertained a similar proposal late last year, and it was not widely supported on either side of the isle and the reasons for this are pretty important.
First, a reduction of the federal workforce, no matter how you try and frame it, means people are going to lose their jobs, and that is NEVER a good thing. A rising unemployment rate puts a higher stress on federal funding that will have to be dispersed to support these people. We do not want the unemployment rate to go up!
Second, there is already a large strain on our federal workforce as a result of cost-cutting measures that were implemented over the last 20 years. Furthermore limiting the size of the workforce could not only exponentially grow that strain, but it could also stop the government from fulfilling its goal of providing certain services or programs. Let us for a moment consider all the things that will suffer, Veteran’s care will suffer, education will suffer, and public agencies that monitor our air, our drinking water, and our development standards will all suffer. If none of this frightens you, allow me to point out that this would also drastically reduce the number of people working and managing the Department of Homeland Security, which is ultimately charged with protecting the U.S. from foreign and domestic enemies.
Realizing the reason for concern yet? Well buckle up because there’s more!
Next on his list, Mr. Trump had promised to instate a rule that would require 2 federal regulation to be eliminated in order for a new one to be put in place. This part of his promise is particularly hard to understand because I genuinely don’t know exactly what he means by this or how he would plan to do this. Unfortunately, most of Mr. Trump’s proposed 100 day changes lack any real context, but what this sounds like to me (and I welcome other interpretations) is Mr. Trump is attempting to make it easier for companies and big businesses to do as they please. If this assumption rings true, then there is likely little hope for overturning Citizen’s United any time soon.
Measures 4-6 deal with lobbying, specifically lengthening the amount of time that a person must wait before they can lobby for a company, organization or foreign government after working for Congress or the White House. These proposed action items are actually GREAT policy folks!
Here’s the thing, there are already similar regulations in place, and while people don’t necessarily want to be known for agreeing with Trump, there’s really some merit to lengthening that time span between working for government agencies and lobbying the government for outside agencies. These rules would ensure that businesses and foreign governments would have less access and influence on our politics and our law making process.
The next part of Mr. Trump’s plan involves environmental protections and federal funding and blocking of former proposals and programs. Mr. Trump has made it VERY clear that he doesn’t believe that climate change is real, he’s called it a hoax, he’s called it a farce, and he’s promised over and over again to move America’s focus away from climate change out to issues that he, himself, has deemed more worthy.
In recent decades, 97% of scientists agree that climate change is not only real, but it is a matter of dire importance. In 2014 the entire world came together and agreed to put money into research into alternative energy sources and how to stop the effects of climate change. Mr. Trump states plainly that he does not intend to let America continue to be a part of this global effort. Essentially he has sent the message that whether climate change is going to cause massive damage to the planet and its people or not, he doesn’t really care. This is not only dangerous, it’s detrimental! America is a world leader, and for it to walk away from such an important success on this front is sad at best, and horrifying at worst.
There is no mention of the growing clean tech industry, but Mr. Trump could perhaps be swayed to supporting this innovative industry depending on what comes across his desk and how it is framed. In this area, I think individual citizens could have a great deal of influence, as informing your Members of Congress that you would like to see clean tech jobs replace those that have been lost as jobs in the coal, shale, and natural gas sectors.
There is a lot of focus on a president’s first 100 days, and the fascination with Trump’s first 100 days will be no different. That being said, I think we must explore all of his proposed ideas and changes thoroughly. If you supported him, be open to hearing criticism of his ideas, if you opposed him, be open to hearing his point of view on our nation’s many issues. If you are interested in reading a little more, here are links for you to follow: