Trump and the GOP take aim at Obama-era regulations, from consumer protections to water pollution

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After signing, U.S. President Donald Trump holds up an executive order rolling back regulations from the 2010 Dodd-Frank law on Wall Street reform at the White House in Washington February 3, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2ZJBJ

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we’re going to dig into some of the actions taken this week by the White House and the Congress to roll back Obama era rules and regulations.

I am joined by our own Lisa Desjardins and William Brangham.

And we welcome both of you. It’s good to have you here at the table.

William, I’m going to start with you.

We heard John Yang reporting earlier the administration did today go after financial regulations that were part — a feature of the Obama administration, including a peace of Dodd-Frank. Tell us about that.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Yes.

Today was what some people would say was the beginning of an all-out rollback. Some would argue it’s a dismantling of consumer protections and financial regulations.

With regards to Dodd-Frank, this order that the president put out doesn’t mention Dodd-Frank by name, but it’s all about Dodd-Frank, Dodd-Frank, as you remember, the 2010 law that said we need to fix some of the problems that got us into trouble in 2008, how banks operate, the risks story can take. They created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Critics have hated Dodd-Frank and all of its tentacles ever since it was created. And now the president has asked the secretary of the treasury to look at all the different rules within there, find out which are too costly, which are too burdensome and potentially get rid of them.

Supporters of Dodd-Frank would say maybe the law wasn’t perfect, but something had to be done to constrain Wall Street since the 2008 crisis, so we don’t see a repeat, and that this move goes in the opposite direction.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the other thing they did which I think is important is they went after a provision that — again, feature of the Obama administration — that affects those individuals who are paid to give retirement financial advice.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s right.

This is what was known — this was the rules the Department of Labor put out. It’s called the fiduciary standard. And last year, the Department of Labor said any financial adviser or broker has to follow this standard, which means you have to put your clients’ interests ahead of your own, and not sell them a package that might kick back fees to you or might not be very good for them as a client.

Again, the industry for a long time has said this is burdensome, costly, it stops people from getting good financial advice. And today the memorandum that the Trump administration put out said, Department of Labor, look at these rules, figure out which ones we should get rid of.

Again, the supporters of these rules argue that roughly $17 billion every single year is lost by people who are given unscrupulous advice and encouraging a dismantling of these rules is a terrible idea.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s certainly something we want to continue to pay attention to.

So, Lisa, meantime, Congress moving in its own way to roll back some important actions during the Obama administration.

LISA DESJARDINS: Right. Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One of them had to do with coal mining and waterways. Tell us about that one.

LISA DESJARDINS: So, Congress now is using a very seldom-used law that allows them to go after rules that were passed in the last months of the Obama administration.

And the first one is this one, the stream protection rule. And what that does is, it requires mining companies to monitor streams for pollution and then it tells them exactly what quality those streams must meet, or else mining companies must fix the problem.

Republicans have moved this week in Congress to roll that back. That legislation is going to President Trump’s desk. And now critics of that rule say the problem was twofold, too onerous on the companies and that it was poorly written, that it affected Great Plains the same way as it did the mining companies in West Virginia that it was really aimed at.

But supporters point out that, according to those who wrote this rule, it would have improved thousands of miles of streams.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, the other thing we know Congress is working on, hot-button topic, guns and the access that people who may have disabilities, and whether they have access.

LISA DESJARDINS: This is another big deal, something that the House passed yesterday. They would roll back a rule that had to do with a 2007 law that came out of the Virginia Tech massacre. It was aimed at trying to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining guns.

So, what this rule does is, it takes those who are on Social Security disability and who have been found to be mentally impaired, puts those names into the national background check system, so they would be prevented from buying guns.

Critics — the Republican critics of that law say it’s a problem because it’s an overreach. It would include anyone who doesn’t take care of their own finances. Democrats say it’s about safety.

Listen to just this split on the House floor yesterday.

REP. JACKIE WALORSKI, R-Ind.: If you receive Social Security disability payments and someone helps you manage the payments, this regulation stops you from being able to purchase a firearm.

Your name gets added to a federal database, and the burden is on you to prove it doesn’t belong there. This is absolutely outrageous.

REP. JUDY CHU, R-Calif.: This will not only make it easier for even those with severe mental health issues to buy a gun, but it will also take the option for writing similar rules off the table forever, tying the hands of all future administrations.

LISA DESJARDINS: So, that reversal of that gun rule now goes to the Senate. It’s expected to pass.

And, Judy, the thing I want to impress on people is that because of this special law that they’re using here, the House and Senate can get these rollbacks through more quickly. They only need a majority vote in the Senate, not 60 votes. We are going to see a lot of these in coming weeks.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, we’re only two weeks in.

LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Already, all this is happening.

Lisa Desjardins, William Brangham, we thank you.

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