Budget Proposal

Slipping under my radar a bit, I did not notice a new memorandum posted a couple of days ago until today. The actual content of the proposed budget sent to Congress received ample news coverage, but I do not recall seeing or hearing anything about a presidential memorandum on the budget.

It is a letter to the Speaker of the House accompanying his budget proposal. It is basic in that is summarizes and attempts to justify increases in spending on military and security. The real substance is in the budget proposal itself.

Memorandum Title: Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Posted March 16, 2017.

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Guessed Wrong

A Federal judge in Hawaii has proven me wrong.

In my review of the updated immigration executive order (aka “travel ban”), I guessed the revised order would pass legal muster. Last night (March 15, 2017) Judge Derrick K. Watson, of the Federal District Court in Honolulu, blocked implementation of two key parts (Sections 2 and 6) of the order nation wide. Subsequently, another judge (Judge Theodore D. Chuang, of the Maryland District) issued a similar ruling.

How could I be so wrong? The simple (desperately trying not to be defensive) answer is I am not a lawyer and it is now even more clear I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to legal issues. Somehow, I don’t think that will keep me from expressing my own opinions in the future, however. [grin]

[Ed. note: A savvy reader might take the previous paragraph as a less than subtle “Reader Beware” warning.]

Following this case I have learned an important and fascinating lesson about the law and how it is interpreted. Previously, I did not fully understand how judges could use more than the official text of an executive order (or law for that matter) to determine whether or not it is constitutional. Obviously, Judge Watson used many other comments, documents, etc. by the president and his surrogates to conclude the primary purpose of the order was to discriminate against a particular religion. In hindsight, I can now see that I completely missed this aspect of the rulings on the original “travel ban” order. This time around, the concept of including other documents in determining intent is much more obvious.

It is actually very good to know that extended context matters with respect to interpreting the law.

Since both of the judges issued temporary restraining orders not final orders, the legal battles over the “travel band” executive order are far from over. I’ll be following them every step of the way.

For anyone interested in the details, here is the full text of the Watson ruling as published by the New York Times. Fair warning: it is lengthy.

Dismantling the Executive Branch

Yesterday the president signed another executive order – this one about “Reorganizing the Executive Branch”. Just reading the order itself, without paying attention to context and influences on the president, one could easily conclude it is a good, prudent effort to streamline government operations. I will freely admit there is likely plenty of waste and redundancy in the executive branch that could be cleaned up, but I cannot ignore the context here.

A fairly brief order, it directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to gather ideas (for 180 days) and propose a reorganization plan (by another 180 days) to give to the president. It allows for the potential of drafting appropriate new legislation to accomplish the tasks proposed.

The order appears to me to be a very thinly disguised directive to propose an ambitious plan to effectively dismantle much of the Executive Branch of the federal government. I come to that conclusion not only from the language in the order itself, but also knowing the chief advisors – Bannon and Miller in particular – have the goal of destroying the federal government. Additional evidence for my conclusion can be found in the appointments to various cabinet positions. Many of them have publicly called for elimination or radically reducing the effectiveness of the very departments they are now charged with leading. I won’t go into detail here on these appointments, but this order clearly gives them the room to do just what they want.

Quoting from the order:

(e) In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consult with the head of each agency and, consistent with applicable law, with persons or entities outside the Federal Government with relevant expertise in organizational structure and management.

Sounds reasonable. But no mention of convening meetings that include more than one agency head (when one of the stated goals is to consolidate “duplicate” activities in different agencies) is a major red flag. And, again one has to read between the lines, but consulting with people outside the government with “expertise in organizational structure and management” very probably means POTUS 45’s hand picked cronies. I would not be surprised if ALEC* has a big hand in this as well.

If the Director of the OMB delivers the plan on the timeline stated, in about a year we will know how much of the executive branch of the federal government is intended to be left standing.

* American Legislative Exchange Council here exposed for what they are.

Official title of the order: Presidential Executive Order on a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch

Executive order posted March 13, 2017.

Irony In Action

I could not help but laugh when I saw the proclamation posted later in the day March 6. It proclaims March 5 through March 11, 2017 National Consumer Protection Week. This administration, especially obvious through cabinet appointments, is so far from being interested in protecting consumers and yet, this proclamation would have us believe otherwise. It is a little hard to take this seriously when it is posted late in the day after the week it designates began. I wonder if anyone in this administration saw the irony.

I’ve often wondered just how much difference presidential or congressional proclamations really make. I’m sure they are important to the groups promoting them, but do they have any significant impact on the general population?

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims March 5 through March 11, 2017, as National Consumer Protection Week

Proclamation posted March 6, 2017.

Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States

It is finally here. The latest attempt to restrict immigration also known as the “Muslim ban”.

First, there are a couple of provisions that are significant, even though they are stated toward the end of the order. They are:

  1. This order revokes Executive Order 13769 of January 27, 2017.
  2. The effective date of this order is 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight time March 16, 2017 – ten days from now.

It seems the urgency argument has lost out to the need for at least some semblance of advanced warning and time for clearing of the current pipeline.

The full order is lengthy and much of the early part reads more like a defense attorney’s arguments for why such an order is within the power of the president and why it is necessary, including references to the litigation over the previous order.

Overall, this order is much more thorough than its predecessor. While six of the seven countries previously named are still targeted (Iraq is treated as a special case), the list of exceptions for individuals appears to be more carefully constructed. Also, the case for these specific countries is more thoroughly stated.

I hasten to say I am no legal expert by any means, but my guess is this one will pass legal muster. That is not to say I think it is necessary or helpful.

Executive Order posted March 6, 2017.

Memorandum for the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security

Issued in tandem with the new immigration executive order, this memorandum is basically the “extreme vetting” directive that has been promised, but also includes a component for increased “transparency” that requires regular reports on the numbers of visas issued among other things.

Following is an excerpt that refers to the vetting:

Sec. 2.  Enhanced Vetting Protocols and Procedures for Visas and Other Immigration Benefits.  The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, as permitted by law, implement protocols and procedures as soon as practicable that in their judgment will enhance the screening and vetting of applications for visas and all other immigration benefits, so as to increase the safety and security of the American people.  These additional protocols and procedures should focus on:

(a)  preventing the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who may aid, support, or commit violent, criminal, or terrorist acts; and

(b)  ensuring the proper collection of all information necessary to rigorously evaluate all grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, or grounds for the denial of other immigration benefits.

The relevant section of the reporting requirements follows:

In addition to any other information released by the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, or the Secretary of Homeland Security:

(i)   Beginning on April 28, 2017, and by the last day of every month thereafter, the Secretary of State shall publish the following information about actions taken during the preceding calendar month:

(A)  the number of visas that have been issued from each consular office within each country during the reporting period, disaggregated by detailed visa category and country of issuance; and

(B)  any other information the Secretary of State considers appropriate, including information that the Attorney General or Secretary of Homeland Security may request be published.

(ii)  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall issue reports detailing the number of adjustments of immigration status that have been made during the reporting period, disaggregated by type of adjustment, type and detailed class of admission, and country of nationality.  The first report shall be issued within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, and subsequent reports shall be issued every 90 days thereafter.  The first report shall address data from the date of this memorandum until the report is issued, and each subsequent report shall address new data since the last report was issued.

I doubt very much that this directive is needed, but this president is insistent on delivering on his campaign promises, even the most ill-advised and cruel.

Memorandum posted March 6, 2017.

Three Proclamations of March 1, 2017

All three are self-explanatory so I will just list them as links to their full texts.