On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump promised to eliminate or drastically scale back the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Education - two examples, he argued, of federal government bloat.
But President-elect Trump might be having second thoughts, at least for now.
Asked by CBS News whether the Trump administration had plans to shutter federal agencies or departments, transition spokesman Sean Spicer responded, “Not that I’m aware of.”
In a March primary debate in Detroit, Fox News moderator Chris Wallace asked what Mr. Trump would cut to reduce the national debt.
“Department of Education,” Trump said. “Department of Environmental Protection. We are going to get rid of it in almost every form,” he added, referring to the EPA.
President-elect Trump will have authority to roll back some executive actions by the Obama administration instantly, like regulations aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of federal agencies. Other executive actions would be more complicated to unwind and take time, requiring a public notice and comment period. Once president, Mr. Trump could also lobby Congress to increase or decrease funding for certain agencies.
“I expect a dramatic shift in what the EPA does because of the people he’ll appoint to run the agency....once you employ your own people, you start to change your tune,” said Robert Percival, an environmental law professor at the University of Maryland.
Actually abolishing a cabinet-level department or the EPA would require an act of Congress.
“I would be shocked if it actually happened,” Percival said. “All these promises on the campaign trail end up facing reality when the new president takes office.”
The president-elect seemed to moderate his stance on environmental policy Tuesday in an interview with the New York Times. Mr. Trump, who called climate change a “hoax” during the campaign, said Tuesday he believes “there is some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.
He also said he would review with “an open mind” the Paris climate accord which aims to reduce greenhouse emissions worldwide. During the campaign Mr. Trump promised to “cancel” the agreement, withdrawing the US from a deal with nearly 200 countries.
Candidate Trump promised to “bring education local” by eliminating national reading and math standards known as Common Core. In any case, if the president-elect does end up closing down the Department of Education, it would mean his newly-named education secretary, Betsy DeVos, would be looking at a short-term job.