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Professor discusses first year of Trump administration

| Thursday, February 8, 2018

Reflecting on the first year of the Trump administration and what it indicates about the future, professor of political science Gary E. Hollibaugh, Jr. said the president‘s largest accomplishments include the tax reform bill and his judicial appointments, during a lecture Wednesday night in Geddes Hall as part of the Pizza, Pop and Politics series presented by NDVotes.

Drawing on an opinion piece written by President Trump in the “Washington Examiner” last year and the recent State of the Union address, Hollibaugh first mentioned the tax reform bill.

“This was seen by many, both political and nonpolitical observers, as possible being the crowning achievement of the Trump administration’s first year,” he said.

Hollibaugh said most would argue the other large accomplishment of the Trump administration’s first year was the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. However, Hollibaugh said Trump has made more significant changes through various judicious appointments.

“Possibly much more important than filling the empty seat on the Supreme Court is the fact that President Trump and his administration have been working tirelessly to fill lots of vacancies within all levels of the judiciary, and given that these are lifetime appointments, this will probably be his most long-lasting legacy,” he said.

Trump has filled more circuit court positions than any other president in U.S. history, Hollibaugh said, but that is partly due to the fact that there have been an increased number of those positions in recent decades. Changes to the use of filibusters for court nominations has also helped more accomplish more nominations, Hollibaugh said.

“They were actually able to leverage the fact that because of a lack of senate action on the judicial action during the waning days of the Obama administration, there was a historically high number of vacancies across all levels of the federal bench, and those judges that remained tended to be older than they historically had been,” he said.

Hollibaugh said Trump has also highlighted his congressional accomplishments, such as bills reforming the Department of Veteran Affairs. These reforms were passed by a large bipartisan margin.

“President Trump as well as senate Republicans have been able to streamline the process of filling judicial vacancies,” he said. “Most of these have passed on very close, mostly partisan margins, and this would not be possible if there were still a functional filibuster for judicial nominations.”

Other than these few congressional bills, Hollibaugh said most of the Trump administration accomplishments have been based administratively, meaning by executive order, memorandum or something directed by the President.

“We haven’t seen any real controversial legislation,” he said.

Hollibaugh said Trump typically criticized President Obama for passing executive orders. As presidential actions are easily undone — evidenced by Trump’s reversal of several Obama-administration executive orders — Obama told Trump to rely more heavily on congressional actions.

Drawing on the recent State of the Union address, Hollibaugh said Trump has taken credit for the defeat of ISIS, the creation of 2.4 million new jobs — primarily in manufacturing — and the rapid rise of the stock market.

“For those of you who saw him on TV the other day, he was talking about how great the stock market was doing as it suffered a historic drop,” he said. “It was actually very interesting to watch.”

In the future, Hollibaugh said not to expect many of Trump’s more controversial policies to make it through Congress. Hollibaugh also said the midterm elections “are only going to exacerbate the President’s problems for the next year.”

“The accomplishments that the president will be able to get through the Senate in the next year will probably continue to be judicial nominations and whatever they can get through reconciliation, which will probably include something like increased military funding or maybe funding for a border wall, but probably with strings attached,” he said.

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About Alexandra Muck

Alexandra Muck is a Notre Dame senior majoring in business and economics. Originally from Dallas, she currently lives in Howard Hall.

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