WASHINGTON — President Trump's newest executive orders will target a water protection rule and elevate an initiative on historically black colleges and universities into the White House.
Trump will sign the executive orders in back-to-back signing ceremonies at the White House on Tuesday. The first will seek to undo the Waters of the United States rule, an Obama administration regulation that sought to reinterpret the Clean Water Act to extend federal protections to smaller rivers and streams.
The plan of attack is similar to an earlier Trump order aimed at a consumer protection regulation called the Fiduciary Duty rule. Because the rule was finalized in 2015, the Trump administration will have to start the regulatory process from the beginning to remove it from the books. The executive order will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do just that, asking them to reconsider whether federal jurisdiction extends to non-navigable streams, according to a senior administration official who helped draft the order. The official spoke on condition of anonymity Monday under ground rules set by the White House.
But unlike the Fiduciary Duty Rule, which was scheduled to go into effect April 10, the Waters of the United States rule has already been blocked by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati. The executive order will also ask the Justice Department to put that appeal on hold while the administration reconsiders the rule, the official said.
Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, did not sound optimistic the rule would survive.
"If this were an objective review, I think that would be fine," he said. "If this is a review that the Trump administration has already decided what the outcomes going to be, that's not good."
A second executive order will move the federal initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities into the White House Domestic Policy Council from the Department of Education, where it was housed under the Obama administration.
Since President Jimmy Carter in 1980, every president has signed an executive order reorganizing the initiative. "We think that those HCBU initiatives before lost track because they didn’t have the fuill force of the White House behind them," said another senior administration official who would not be named under White House rules.
The new order comes the day after Trump hosted the presidents of historically black colleges at the White House — cramming 64 of them into the Oval Office for a meeting. “"I don't think we've ever had this many people in the Oval Office,” Trump said to laughter. “This could be a new record, forever. "I don't think we've ever had this many people in the Oval Office,” Trump said. “This could be a new record, forever."
Later, Vice President Pence met with the college presidents. "This administration is committed to making sure our historically black college and universities get the credit and attention they deserve," he said.