Duty-Free Treatment

Yesterday my post on the two routine actions was a bit early so it did not include the third action item posted later in the day. The proclamation on trade is full of detail that is not easy to decipher, with numerous references to the Trade Act of 1974. Since this one is beyond my level of understanding, I’m going to wait to see if there is any media reporting on this to see if it is routine or significant.

Official Title and Link:

Presidential Proclamation to Modify Duty-Free Treatment Under the Generalized System of Preferences and for Other Purposes

Proclamation signed June 29, 2017

Potentially Massive Change in War Powers

[Ed. Note: I’m stepping a little out of my normal practice of reviewing and commenting only on official executive actions with this post, because when I saw the brief news report (see link below) it occurred to me if the bill passes as amended by the House Appropriations Committee, this president will have much less freedom to “authorize and fight wars” than either of his two most recent predecessors.]

What am I talking about?

Today, according to a report published by The Week (posted 12:30 p.m. ET), the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill of 2017 proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee, CA, that repeals the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40) that was passed by Congress in the immediate wake of September 11, 2001. That law has been the basis for all war actions since it was enacted – used by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama to execute military actions in several places around the world. In effect, it was congressional authorization to use military force against terrorist activities, a.k.a. the “War on Terror”. Both the original law and the current amendment (photo of it is in The Week article cited above) are quite brief, so it does not take long to see what this is about.

Based on a Tweet by Rep. Lee, she appeared to be surprised it passed the full committee. The bill, along with this amendment, will be debated openly on the floor of the House of Representatives. Just getting this to the full House is a major change with enormous consequences.

At the time the AUMF passed, I believed it was a colossal overreaction to the 9-11 events and I am extremely pleased that at least the House Appropriations Committee is ready to reclaim the power of Congress to declare war instead of abdicating it to the president. It is long overdue to require a full, congressional debate before sending military forces into any kind of war.

The prospect of this law being repealed is so unexpected I’m having trouble wrapping my head around what the full ramifications would be.

What are the chances it will pass the full House? Will the Senate go along? If it reaches the president’s desk, will he veto the whole defense funding package just to keep that provision?

What precipitated the Appropriations Committee action to approve the repeal amendment? According to my count, the committee membership has 30 Republicans and 22 Democrats, (and of course, chaired by a Republican) which means the Republicans could easily have kept the amendment from passing. Does this mean even Republicans are concerned about this president having that level of power? Does the escalation in Syria have anything to do with this committee vote?

So far, I have not found online a breakdown of who on the committee voted for/against the amendment, but I hope it will be available at some point. It would be very interesting to see just who supports the repeal.

Needless to say, I will be watching for other news reports about this important amendment and its progress through the bill’s approval process.

Update June 30, 2017:

Two items to add: 1) Representative Lee was the only person to vote against the original AUMF in 2001, and 2) the vote by the Appropriations Committee yesterday was a voice vote and it passed nearly unanimously. From the video clip I saw of the vote, it sounded like one faint no vote voiced.

Actions of June 29, 2017

It has been eight days since the last actions, which probably means this White House is preoccupied with “other matters”.

Today the silence was broken with two memoranda. Both appear to be routine delegations of reporting responsibilities.

Official Titles and Links

Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Homeland Security

Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Commerce

Memoranda signed June 29, 2017

Change to Foreign Visitor Processing

Anytime this POTUS signs an order to change a previous president’s executive order, my curiosity is piqued, because so much of the public rhetoric of this administration makes clear the intention is to undo as much as possible what President Obama did.

Even though this executive order is very brief, it becomes quite significant for anyone applying for a visa to simply visit the United States. This has nothing to do with immigration, only foreign visitors.

All the order does is change one subsection of Section 2 of the original executive order and authorizes the executive branch officers to make changes to policies and procedures as a result.

Following is the full text of the sub-section of the January, 2012 executive order being deleted:

(ii) ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions;

I am speculating now, but it appears to me to recognize the fact that the State Department is so understaffed that is would not be possible to deliver on the original directive. If that is the case, what concerns me most is the high probability that the dismantling of the government (long a goal of presidential advisor, Steve Bannon) is continuing apace.

Official Title:

Presidential Executive Order Amending Executive Order 13597

Executive Order signed June 21, 2017.

Routine Memoranda

Yesterday four action items were posted on the White House website. Three were fairly routine, although important, memoranda. A fourth is an executive order that I will review separately.

Two are extensions of the national emergency declarations made by previous presidents with regard to North Korea and the Western Balkans.

The third is delegation for presidential authority on one section of the bill cited.

Official Titles:

All signed June 21, 2017

Cuba and Father’s Day

Yesterday two actions were posted – one routine (Father’s Day Proclamation) and the other not so routine. On the other hand, maybe we will need to start considering the actions taken to undo accomplishments of the Obama era as routine, because we are seeing so many of them.

The controversial action of yesterday was the rollback of some of the provisions in the Obama agreement with Cuba to move toward more normalized relations between the two countries.

In several of the media reports, Marco Rubio (2nd generation Cuban American) is mentioned as a key player behind this action. Even though the memorandum cites two memoranda of President Obama, I find it somewhat interesting this action is just a memorandum rather than an executive order, that might have more legal effect. Perhaps it is because this memorandum is largely about making changes to regulations that require a long process of public reaction time before going into effect.

No matter, the intended goals of this action are not truly in the best interest of the United States or the Cuban people as it claims. Many will be negatively affected by the return of more stringent restrictions on travel, for example.

Official Titles:

Memorandum and Proclamation signed June 16, 2017

Internships

Like so many other of POTUS 45’s orders, this one is more bluster than substance. It essentially establishes a task force to produce a report on how to increase internships as part of work force development. Thirty days after the report is finished, the task force is disbanded.

Presidential Executive Order Expanding Apprenticeships in America

Executive Order signed June 15, 2017