The Trump administration may be dogged by the Russia scandal, growing more damning every day, but this week a flurry of reports show they have still been moving forward with plans to implement their regressive policy goals.
Civil rights, women’s healthcare, and the environment all appear on the chopping block.
The Trump administration’s new budget includes a plan to cut the Labor Department division responsible for policing discrimination among federal contractors.
As the Washington Post reports, the plan would fold the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs into another government agency to save money. The division currently employs 600 people.
The budget proposal argues that the move “will reduce operational redundancies, promote efficiencies, improve services to citizens, and strengthen civil rights enforcement.”
The government doing more with less usually sounds much better on paper than it ends up working out in reality, and the administration itself admits less resources means fewer investigations.
Also affected in Trump’s proposed budget: The ability of schools to investigate complaints of discrimination in school districts, as well as the setting of standards for how colleges respond to allegations of sexual assault and harassment. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights would also see staffing cuts, preventing them, as Administration officials have said, from being able to conduct as many investigations as it would be able to without the cutbacks.
The Washington Post also reminds readers that all of this plays into their previous actions to limit the rights of minorities, including the LGBTQ community:
And the administration has reversed several steps taken under President Barack Obama to address LGBT concerns. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, has revoked the guidance to implement a rule ensuring that transgender people can stay at sex-segregated shelters of their choice, and the Department of Health and Human Services has removed a question about sexual orientation from two surveys of elderly Americans about services offered or funded by the government.
The efforts to reduce the federal profile on civil rights reflects the consensus view within the Trump administration that Obama officials exceeded their authority in policing discrimination on the state and local level, sometimes pressuring targets of government scrutiny to adopt policies that were not warranted.
Birth Control Mandate
According to a leaked draft obtained by Vox, the Trump administration may be prepared to gut the Obama administration’s birth control mandate, allowing employers of any kind to seek a moral or religious exemption.
The draft, dated May 23, could result in women having to pay out of pocket for birth control. Vox notes that it is unknown if any changes have been made to the draft since it was obtained, or what all the final version could contain.
“It’s just a very, very, very broad exception for everybody,” Tim Jost, a health law professor at Washington and Lee University, told Vox. “If you don’t want to provide it, you don’t have to provide it.”
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, required most employers to cover contraceptive, with churches, and religiously affiliated hospitals and universities getting an exemption. The Hobby Lobby case also provided exemptions for private businesses able to show that to offer contraceptives would go against their religious beliefs.
The new rule would require employers to inform employees that they would not be covering birth control, but would not be required to inform the government.
“Expanding the exemption removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market,” the administration said of the rule.
As Vox notes:
More than 20 percent of US woman of childbearing age had to pay money out of pocket for oral contraceptives prior to the Obamacare mandate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That shrunk to less than 4 percent a few years after the mandate took effect.
The Paris Agreement was historic, with 195 countries accepting the reality of climate change and the need to do something about it, pledging to take action to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean energy.
While it, by itself, is not enough, the 2015 deal is still a remarkable accomplishment, especially considering that for so long it seemed out of reach.
Sources have told CNN that Trump appears ready to fulfill his campaign promise to pull out of the Paris Agreement. White House lawyers are reportedly looking into whether or not they can stay in and not meet their obligations, or whether that would bring legal issues.
Trump’s aides are said to be split on the issue, with Steve Bannon pushing for the withdrawal and Ivanka Trump said to be pushing for opposite.
The Cabinet is also split, sources said, with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pushing to stay in the deal, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt pressing Trump to announce America will turn away from the pledge to do something about climate change.
World leaders at the G7 Summit also tried to convince Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement. He tweeted today that he would make a decision sometime in the next few days.
I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017