Trump Protests Infringement on Executive Branch in Coast Guard Act

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., praised Congress's approval of the bill. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., praised Congress's approval of the bill. Mel Evans / AP file photo

In his 25th signing statement, President Trump this week registered disagreement with what he sees as legislative encroachment on executive branch powers as he signed into law the 2018 Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act.

That law (S. 140), named for a retiring New Jersey Republican House member, authorizes  appropriations for the Coast Guard and for the Federal Maritime Commission through fiscal 2019, reauthorizes the Commerce’s Department’s hydrographic services program administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through fiscal 2023, and provides for the establishment of uniform standards for the management of vessel discharge.

“Several provisions of this Act,” Trump’s statement said, “raise constitutional concerns. One provision, section 319, purports to require the secretary of the respective department in which the Coast Guard is operating to notify the Congress and then wait 18 months before closing, ceasing operations, or significantly reducing personnel at a Coast Guard air facility. I reiterate the longstanding understanding of the executive branch that these types of provisions encompass only actions for which such advance notification is feasible and consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as Commander in Chief.”

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Trump also objected to provisions that “purport to require executive branch officials under my supervision to recommend legislative measures to the Congress,” and reserved the right for his administration to use its own judgment.

Finally, he objected to a section on antitrust laws, saying, it “should not be interpreted to give the Federal Maritime Commission the authority to construe the antitrust laws in the first instance, which is a responsibility traditionally within the province of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.”

In previous statements, Trump had voiced disagreements with the use of continuing resolutions to boost overall spending; the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act; and against forcing sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

LoBiondo celebrated Congress’s approval of the bill for authorizing $7.9 billion over two years for Coast Guard operating expenses and $2.6 billion for construction, renovation and facilities improvement. It authorizes 43,009 active duty personnel for fiscal 2018 and 44,500 personnel for fiscal 2019, and provides relief for New Jersey fishermen by removing duplicative regulatory requirements shared by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard, he said.

 “So few issues have been bipartisan across the board during my time in Congress but supporting the Coast Guard was always one of them,” he said. “The men and women in the Coast Guard are always asked to do more with less – finally my colleagues have come around to giving our Coasties more so they can continue their outstanding job.”

A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee spokesman told Government Executive he had heard no reaction from lawmakers to the signing statement.    

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