President Trump has little appreciation of America’s Constitutional system but he is getting a crash course in checks and balances.
A second federal judge issued an injunction Thursday blocking enforcement of one of the critical sections of President Trump’s revised travel ban, using Trump’s own comments against him in deciding that the ban was likely to run afoul of the Constitution.
The decision from U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang in federal court in Maryland marks another win for challengers of the president’s executive order, which had been slated to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Earlier, a different federal judge in Hawaii stopped it.
Trump’s legal team keeps telling him he has a winning case. Perhaps they aren’t very competent. Then again, maybe the problem is the client. “I think the Hawaii decision is legally sound despite the cheap shots some law professors who should know better have lobbed at it,” Larry Tribe told me Wednesday night (before the Maryland ruling) “Criticizing the court’s opinion for taking into serious account the President’s own public explanations as he sought the power to impose this Muslim ban is easy but shows little understanding of the Supreme Court’s precedents. That the new travel ban is just a politically watered-down version of the old one and is designed to do the same thing provides especially strong support for the court’s invalidation of the ban.” He adds that “the court rightly dismissed as absurd the Trump administration’s argument that the ban wasn’t anti-Muslim because it didn’t target all Muslims.”
Trump labels his losses as evidence of judicial reach, but in fact they are a sign U.S. institutions are holding their own against Trump.
He is learning from Congress that his and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s health-care plan doesn’t get passed simply because he says it is awesome. The American Health Care Act got through the Budget Committee by a single vote (19-17), with three Freedom Caucus members dissenting. We’ll see if he can flip 30-40 votes (a combination of Freedom Caucus and moderate Republicans) before the vote next week. In any event, if the measure gets through the House it will meet a near-certain death in the Senate. Once again, not every government body bends to Trump’s will.
His budget is a radical, imbalanced and unrealistic effort to keep the deficit from ballooning by slashing domestic discretionary spending. Its chances of passage are nil. The Post reports:
President Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad. . . .
Many of Trump’s budget proposals are likely to run into stiff resistance from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, even from Republicans, whose support is crucial because they must vote to authorize government appropriations. Republicans have objected, for example, to the large cuts in foreign aid and diplomacy that Trump has foreshadowed, and his budget whacks foreign aid programs run by the Education, State and Treasury departments, among others.
The budget is not consistent with the president’s objectives, let alone Congress’s. (“Parts of the budget proposal also appear to contradict Trump’s agenda. Trump has said he wants to eliminate all disease, but the budget chops funding for the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion, or close to 20 percent. He has said he wants to create a $1 trillion infrastructure program, but the proposal would eliminate a Transportation Department program that funds nearly $500 million in road projects. It does not include new funding amounts or a tax mechanism for Trump’s infrastructure program, postponing those decisions.”)
And once again he has given ammunition to Democrats by targeting multiple programs that aid the working poor. (“Trump has unveiled a budget that would slash or abolish programs that have provided low-income Americans with help on virtually all fronts, including affordable housing, banking, weatherizing homes, job training, paying home heating oil bills, and obtaining legal counsel in civil matters.”) This is not populism by any stretch of the imagination. It does, however, reveal how readily he forgets his express concern for the “forgotten man and woman.”
His plan for the wall got a thumbs down — from senators of his own party. The senators whose states are most effected (e.g., Texas, Arizona) are among the most critical.
Even the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget was harsh in pointing out the budget lacked specificity on tax reform, infrastructure and entitlements (“which are the largest drivers of the debt and must be addressed”):
We understand that the new administration needs time to develop its comprehensive budget plan, but there is too little information and too few details to evaluate the budget. Generally, skinny budgets include proposals in all areas and show what these proposals will mean for deficits and debt over the next decade. This budget only gives us a picture of one and a half years and proposes changes to the 30 percent of spending that is discretionary.
We need 100% of a plan for 10 years. Not 30% of a plan for just more than one year.
It blasted his attack on the smallest part of the budget. (“[A]ll of the cuts come from a shrinking slice of the pie: non-defense discretionary spending, which accounts for only 15% of all federal spending and 5% of projected spending growth over the next ten years.”) The group warned: “Such aggressive domestic discretionary cuts will be hard to sustain given that this area of the budget has already undergone large cuts and is projected to grow more slowly than inflation. One test of the seriousness of the payfors will be whether the President pushes for his spending cuts as aggressively as he does his new spending. ”
It’s not clear how the House is going to come up with a budget at odds with a president of its own party. Ryan may once again get blamed for failing to carry the president’s proposal across the finish line.
In sum, whether in the courts or in Congress Trump may find his extreme, ill-conceived and inhumane policies get stopped or significantly altered. That does not mean he cannot do great harm to the country, but it does mean all the harm he intends won’t come to pass.