Three Memoranda of January 23, 2017

In his first full business day in office, POTUS 45 signed at least three action documents. There may have been more, but if so, they will have to wait until they are published in the Federal Register for my review.

I have obtained the full text of three memoranda from a news report at NPR.org.

The subjects are:

  • Hiring Freeze in the Executive Branch
  • Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Negotiations
  • The Mexico City Policy

All three have been relatively high profile stories in the national news, but what I have seen and heard so far does not provide much detail or context.

The hiring freeze apparently reflects common practice at the outset of every new administration. It does not include the military. It also does not preclude appointments of executive officers requiring consent of the Senate. There are other exceptions allowed for, but I will not belabor them here. I did find one sentence quite interesting, though. “Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.” The freeze is in effect until the Office of Management and Budget can produce and implement a plan for long-term reduction of the workforce. The plan is to be produced within 90 days of this memorandum.

Withdrawal of participation in the TPP was a promised action in the campaign, so it is no surprise. The memorandum emphasizes the need for bi-lateral trade agreements instead.

The so called “Mexico City Policy” might need a little more context to understand it better. The original memorandum, later called the Mexico City Policy, was signed by President Reagan in 1984. It was intended to prohibit American funds from being used for abortion in international contexts.

Shortly after his inauguration in 1993, President Clinton rescinded that memorandum. President Bush reinstated it in 2001, and President Obama rescinded it again in 2009.

This new memorandum revokes the one signed by President Obama January 23, 2009 and reinstates one signed by President Bush in January 22, 2001. In addition this memorandum expands the Bush memorandum “to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.” It further directs “…to the extent permitted by law, to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

In my searching for the various predecessor memoranda to find out the detail of what they direct, I found it difficult to find the Bush January 2001 action. Instead the searches kept referring to a later memorandum (March 28, 2001) that extended the original Reagan directive with more specifics. I find it very interesting that POTUS 45 did not include those additions by simply reinstating that March memorandum, but instead went back to the January 2001 document. Apparently he just wanted to add his own stipulations noted above.

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