Analysis: Trump still has power to make policy. Watch what he does

The question for all Americans to consider is how long we must continue to pay attention to this man.

The long-term answer will depend very much on how long he continues to be the single mobilizing force for Republican voters. And, very long-term, there’s not a lot of evidence that one-termers leave lasting impressions. Given the horrible silence among other top Republicans (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, notably) when it comes to affirming Biden’s electoral victory, it could be a while. But let’s talk when Trump’s six months out of office.

The short-term answer is very different. Trump seems busy with tweeting, golfing and pushing fantasy fiction that he didn’t lose the election. But the machinery of his government continues to move around him.

Diluting the power of undocumented immigrants. His lawyers were arguing before the US Supreme Court that he should be able to exclude undocumented immigrants from the Census count, a decision that runs counter to the language in the Constitution, but is a variation on the efforts to crack down on immigrants at a time when the GOP’s political base appears to be shrinking. Even conservative Supreme Court justices were skeptical during arguments Monday, and it appeared they could punt. Read more.
Making it harder to become a citizen. The civics portion of the US Citizenship test is being updated from 100 questions to 128 beginning on December 1. See sample questions here.
Speeding up executions. The Justice Department will seek to speed up the death penalty for a handful of people on federal death row before January 20 and move forward with a new rule that opens the gate to potential firing squads. If these executions take place, it’ll be the most during a presidential transition since 1884, according to the Death Penalty Information Project. It’s a practice Trump revitalized and one that Biden would abolish. Read more.
Building the wall — Most of the more than 400 miles that have been constructed during the Trump administration replace sections where previous barriers were falling down or outdated. But even with just 25 miles of new construction, according to the New York Times, the black line of wall that snakes along portions of the Southern border will be a legacy. And they describe a push to get as much done by January 20 as possible, although it’s not clear exactly when or how Biden will move to halt construction. And it’s very unlikely he’ll be tearing any down. Read more.
Changing a host of rules. ProPublica has an excellent review of rules the administration is pushing through its executive authority. They would curb, for now, immigration and make it more difficult for the EPA to impose pollution restrictions, as well as allow the Department of Energy to roll back standards for washing machines, and others, and open up more federal land to oil and gas exploration just before Biden tries to move the country toward cleaner energy.

All of these things will take time for Biden and his team to unwind, if they decide to do so.

Over on Capitol Hill, things are coming to a head. A Covid-19 stimulus proposal for more aid and a new round of stimulus checks is in limbo, perhaps until Biden takes office, but Trump’s signature will be needed on a massive government spending bill to keep the government running. He’s said before he dislikes these bills.

Trump also dislikes the bipartisan defense authorization bill, which sets policy for the Pentagon, because it opens the door to renaming US military bases currently named for confederate generals — Ft. Hood, for instance.

But there’s a LOT for this Congress to get through and not much time left to do it. Read more.

: Georgia means everything for Biden’s presidency

What the next president can accomplish will have everything to do with the twin Senate races in Georgia. It’s hard to overstate how important a Senate majority would be to Biden’s plans — or even filling his Cabinet with who he wants.

All of these things could go one way if McConnell’s in charge of the Senate and a very different way if it’s Chuck Schumer:

Cabinet. For instance, there are rumblings that his preferred Office of Management and Budget Director, the liberal think tank leader Neera Tanden, could face a GOP blockade. She’s been on the record criticizing Republicans for years, and if Republicans run the Senate, she’ll need at least a few Republicans to support her. Read more.

Undoing Trump rules. Addressing last minute Trump administration rules will be much easier if it can be done by Congress. It’ll be more time consuming to do things administratively.

Fixing Obamacare. If the Supreme Court invalidates the Affordable Care Act (or even if he doesn’t) what Biden can do about health care depends very much on who controls the Senate.

Addressing the Covid economy. What stimulus proposal Biden can entertain will look very different coming out of a Senate where Democrats control the chamber compared to one where McConnell decides what gets a vote.

Building back better. The aforementioned items are relatively small bore when put up against the climate crisis and how or even whether to do anything. GOP orthodoxy right now is that climate change is not something that should be addressed by government. Democrats side with scientists that think it’s an existential threat.

Biden wants to rewire the entire US economy around clean energy. He might not be able to do much with the filibuster in place, but he can obviously do more with a more friendly majority.

: The GOP rift on elections is something to watch in Georgia

Republicans need to win those Senate seats as much as Democrats do if they want to block Biden’s plans, which makes it all the more telling that Trump and his campaign continue to try to get the presidential results overturned rather than focusing on getting out the vote for the Senate races. Trump’s campaign again tried to get Republican officials in Georgia to undermine the results by questioning mail-in ballots. They were again rebuffed. The latest recount there should be done by Wednesday. But the rift between Republicans committed to honoring voters at the state level and the White House, which is still trying to ignore them, is an incredible thing to watch.

Disconnected. When Trump travels to Georgia to campaign for the Republican Senate candidates there — Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — he’ll be simultaneously saying the vote that cost him the White House was fraudulent (it wasn’t) and that Republicans should take part in that fraudulent system.

Arizona certification. The state handed Biden 11 electoral votes and, more importantly, cleared the way for Mark Kelly, the new Democratic senator, to be sworn in Wednesday.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of David Perdue, the senator from Georgia.

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