By Peter O’Keefe
As with any change in Administration from one party to the other, the effect on public policy can be felt in both subtle and significant ways. If the last two weeks are an accurate indicator of future efforts, there will be nothing subtle about the changes this Administration seeks to pursue.
Monday’s New York Times article by Alex Burns makes a point that we have been counseling clients on for weeks: Democratic Governors and Attorneys General will become increasingly active as they serve on the frontline of the Trump resistance over the next four years.
Setting aside the President’s Executive Order (EO) on immigration, where Democratic Governors and Attorneys General moved quickly to halt the ban, we anticipate five other hot-button issues Democratic Governors and Attorneys General now find themselves embroiled in: Climate, Women’s Health, Equality, Regulatory Reform of our Financial Services Industry and, of course, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Consider the following actions the Democratic base views as an assault on progress in just the first two weeks of the Trump Administration: (i) the cleansing of the EPA’s website to remove references to climate change programs initiated under Obama and President Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement; (ii) reinstating the Global Gag Rule, passing the Hyde Amendment and the nomination of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court; (iii) a White House draft EO that would have pulled back Obama-era LGBT protections, which was ultimately tabled; (iv) the signing of an EO instructing the Treasury to review regulations not consistent with the President’s views, which will likely lead to legislation rolling back Dodd-Frank and finally; (v) the President and Congress’ very high profile effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
These issues are core to Democratic base voters who fought hard to advance them under President Obama and are loathe to see them repealed by Republican control of all three branches of government in Washington.
Enter Democratic State leaders.
Look for AGs to pick up the fight (not unlike their Republican counterparts under Obama) on many of these issues by challenging the President’s authority to act unilaterally and by moving matters to the court, thus delaying action. Efforts to roll back the Clean Power Plan and introduce Religious Freedom bills will be vigorously litigated as Democrats look to highlight violations of the law or run out the clock on Trump.
And that’s just the federal front. Consider the bevy of bills being introduced across the nation via Republican dominance of state legislatures – many of which will chip away at these same issues, but from the ground up – and you can see how busy Democratic AGs are about to become.
Will progressive, grassroots supporters rise up and reward AG’s for their vigilance? If the American Civil Liberties Union’s fundraising haul two weekends ago is any indication of grassroots energy and potential support ($24+ million raised online in under 72 hours) the answer is emphatically yes.
Therefore, expect Democratic AGs to continue to enjoy their new perch as the face of the loyal opposition and, potentially, incentivized by an invigorated grassroots community.
To that end, look for some announcement or press event later this month when the National Association of Attorneys General hosts its annual meeting in Washington, DC. Huddling just steps from the White House may be a tempting opportunity for Democratic AG’s to show solidarity in their efforts to hold the line against the new President.
Peter O’Keefe is a Partner at Forbes Tate Partners and Treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association.