On Monday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gathered senior aides on a call.
One of his goals: to plot the conservative policy moves they could push through in their final 10 weeks on immigration, trade, health care, China and school choice.
Even as President Donald Trump refused to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, Meadows was asking aides on the call to give him three goals by the end of the week that could be accomplished by Biden’s inauguration, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Since then, staffers have compiled a list of roughly 15 moves they could make through executive orders, executive actions or finalizing agency rules that they plan to pursue in the coming days, according to interviews with three administration officials.
On immigration, they are seeking to finalize a rule related to making the standards stricter around H-1B visas, which allow U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. And a potential school-related executive order would seek to give Covid-19 relief money to parents in public school districts shut down by the coronavirus, allowing them to use the funds for private or parochial schools.
The president intends to start issuing the orders as soon as possible, aides said, while agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Homeland Security are rushing to finish rules already in the pipeline. It’s unclear how legally binding each executive order might be — Trump has earned a reputation for overstating the power of mostly symbolic EOs during his four years as president.
The planning is the latest sign of White House aides privately acknowledging the outcome of the election and eventual transfer of power to Democrats, while the Trump campaign publicly continues to wage legal battles in a handful of states over ballot counts and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.
“It will put pressure on Biden because a lot of the ideas are popular things,” said Stephen Moore, an informal economic adviser to the White House. “It would be a little politically tough for Biden to go into the White House and cancel them.”
Already, the Biden team has plans to sign its own set of executive orders on Jan. 20 to undo some of Trump’s four years of policymaking — reversing the Trump travel bans on mostly Muslim-majority countries, restoring protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, rejoining the Paris climate agreement and revising dozens of public health and environmental regulations Trump rolled back.