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Trump's leadership team represents more than differing views

Posted: 4:17 PM, Dec 15, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-15 21:33:24Z

President-elect Donald Trump is not a typical politician -- or a typical Republican, for that matter. But as he completes his cabinet selections, some picks jump out for just how in-step they are with the party's views on how Washington should work.

Back during the Republican primary debates, Trump echoed many of his competitors when he said he would "eliminate" the Department of Education and "get rid of" the Environmental Protection Agency. And he has followed through by picking people to head those agencies they’ve spent their careers opposing.

"Trump seems to be cozying up to conservatives in some of these policy areas," said Phillip Wallach, a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. But, Wallach continues, "there's something distinctly Trumpian" about making picks that have "such an adversarial stance toward the agencies they're now going to head."

Namely, Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos champions alternatives to public schools such as vouchers for parents to use towards private and religiously-run school tuition. And Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was tapped to run the Environmental Protection Agency, the same agency he's spent his time in office suing over climate change regulations.

"You're going to see a lot of Obama administration policies get reversed, especially the ones that are legally controversial," like the EPA's clean power plan that the Supreme Court's conservative majority blocked by a 5-4 vote in February, just days before Justice Antonin Scalia died.

And then there's former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy, which, after famously forgetting its name during a primary debate, he said he would eliminate had he won his bid for the presidency in 2012.

Still, talk of eliminating agencies and the prospect of policy reversals are standard philosophical differences between contemporary Republicans and Democrats. It's how Trump's agency heads get to their goals rather than what the goals are that could very well define the presidency.

"The fact that Trump seems to relish confrontation so much may really shape the way that these political fights play out and that may affect where they end up also," Wallach says.