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Backers urge patience after Trump’s first 100 days

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — President Donald Trump promised to build a border wall, overhaul the health care system and renegotiate North American Free Trade Agreement — all within his first 100 days in office.

President Donald Trump has in his first few months signed 28 pieces of legislation and churned out several dozen executive actions on everything from border enforcement to a steel dumping probe.

As the 100th day approaches on Saturday, Trump hasn’t accomplished these campaign goals. But he has fulfilled other pledges, such as backing out of the 12-nation Asian trade pact known as the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Trump’s agenda has often included Michigan. His first three months have seen a revolving door of chief executives in and out of the White House, including leaders from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV as well as the heads of Michigan-based Dow Chemical and Whirlpool.

Trump also won plaudits from Detroit’s Big Three when in Ypsilanti last month he reopened an automaker-requested review of a strict fuel economy mandate.

But the administration’s increased immigration enforcement has caused dismay among the state’s immigrant rights and civil liberties advocates.

Gov. Rick Snyder has demurred at getting state police involved in deportations — the goal of one executive order — and state officials have raised the specter of federal officials asking local school officials to help deport undocumented immigrants, a move they say would be illegal.

The president has signed 28 pieces of legislation and churned out several dozen executive actions on everything from beefing up border enforcement to an investigation on steel dumping.

“He’s working very closely with those industries nearest and dearest to our hearts in Michigan,” said Lena Epstein, a Southfield businesswoman who co-chaired Trump’s Michigan campaign.

“This is somebody who reached out to those who felt they were forgotten, and who continues to directly communicate — not only will I never forget you, but I’m going to speak to you and address those areas that are most important to you.”

But critics including Kary Moss of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said the first 100 days have served as “a wake-up call to a nation that deeply believes in our role and tradition as a haven from injustice.

“Everywhere I go I hear people recognizing the fragility of our democratic institutions and reaffirming the value of the right to vote, Bill of Rights, need for reform of our immigration laws, protection of the environment and public education,” said Moss, the group’s executive director.

Trade and immigration

Trump has lagged behind his predecessors in filling top posts, having nominated 58 of nearly 1,100 political appointees requiring Senate confirmation, according to the Partnership for Public Service. He has won approval of 26 appointees.

“How much can be accomplished by anybody in just 100 days?” Epstein said. “I’d like to encourage Michiganders to stay patient.”

But in Michigan and elsewhere, some of Trump’s early policies have strained his already sour relationship with immigrant communities and Muslim Americans.

“There haven’t been too much tangible effects or results for Michigan residents to see, so far. It’s been an active first 100 days, if not terribly successful,” said David Dulio, who chairs the political science department at Oakland University.

President Donald Trump speaks with GM CEO Mary Barra, left, and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne at a January meeting with auto executives in the White House. Trump has pressured automakers to build in the U.S. and will review fuel economy rules.

“One of the most sought-after things in Michigan was backing out of the TPP. The folks in Macomb County who voted for him, the Reagan Democrats, are at the top of that list of his supporters in clamoring for that.”

On Thursday, Trump reiterated he would try to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico before giving six-month’s notice of withdrawing from the trade pact, which has been blamed in part for automakers moving production of smaller cars to Mexico.

White House officials this week acknowledged they had hoped to accomplish more by this point, but blamed Senate Democrats for slowing Trump’s cabinet nominees and opposing his agenda at many turns.

“One of the reasons the American people elected him is because they were frustrated with the lack of progress in Washington,” said Marc Short, director of legislative affairs at the White House.

“They wanted an outsider who would come change it. That’s not going to happen in the first 100 days. That’s going to take time.”

Short stressed a major win was the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Dulio and others noted that executive orders don’t have the same force of law as legislation, and that lifting regulations isn’t going to excite a lot of voters.

Business optimism

But Rep. Tim Walberg, a Tipton Republican, said he’s hearing optimism from business people in his district, regardless of what they think of Trump’s unconventional style.

“He’s learning a little bit about what it’s like in private-sector negotiations versus the public sector with 435 members of the House and 100 senators,” Walberg said. “It’s a different ball game, and I think he’s shown some growth there, as well.”

During the campaign, Trump accused China of repeatedly devaluing its currency. As president, Trump says he will no longer label China a currency manipulator in part because, as he told the Associated Press last week, he wants Chinese President Xi’s help to “solve the North Korean problem.”

“My constituents and hard-working Americans across the country have yet to see specific deliverables — actions regarding his promises on jobs outsourcing and trade,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, told reporters this week.

“This is not a reality TV show. This is reality, and people need good-paying jobs. And we’re willing to work with this president if he’s serious about making that happen.”

Short said Trump’s work to ease the regulatory environment will be the “best job creator we could anticipate.”

“After eight years of the failed economic policies of the last administration, I think it’s a little rich for Senate Democrats to complain about the lack of more progress on the job creation front,” he said.

Visit to Michigan

During Trump’s trip to Ypsilanti Township on March 15, he pushed for more U.S. jobs and particularly factories.

Automakers need to “build new plants in Michigan and other states,” he told a round table that included U.S., Japanese, South Korean and German auto executives as well as United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams against the backdrop of a giant American flag.

Trump told automakers he would reopen a review of a fuel economy mandate to achieve the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, something the Obama administration finalized in January ahead of schedule.

Environmentalists accused Trump of siding with polluting automakers over people who want to preserve the quality of the nation’s air.

Some CEOs have not shied from criticizing Trump. Ford was among the corporations that opposed Trump’s executive order on immigration, saying it “goes against our values as a company.”

After the courts tossed out Trump’s original directive, his revised order was blocked by two federal judges. It has also been challenged in court by the ACLU of Michigan and the Dearborn-based Arab American Civil Rights League as an unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The administration denies it is a Muslim ban, but says it is a temporary suspension of travel to the United States by individuals from six countries that are either failed states or “state sponsors of terror.”

Advocates in Michigan, home to the nation’s largest Arab-American community, have predicted Trump’s policies will separate families and prevent businesses, universities and hospitals from bringing in personnel.

“Because of our openness and diversity, southeast Michigan is ground zero in the Trump administration’s war against immigration and Islam,” Rep. John Conyers wrote in a recent column in The Detroit News.

Trump’s budget plan has proposed eliminating a cleanup program for the Great Lakes Basin, legal aid for the poor and low-income heating assistance, as well as federal subsidies for passenger air service to rural Michigan communities.

GOP and Democrat lawmakers from Michigan have protested loudest against ending the $300 million-a-year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, arguing it would cost jobs and reverse progress in cleaning up pollution and fighting invasive species and harmful algal blooms.

Walberg, who opposes cutting the Great Lakes program, doesn’t believe they will come to fruition.

“I believe the president is saying to us all across the spectrum: ‘I’m serious about reducing spending and setting priorities,’ ” Walberg said. “ ‘But if you don’t think this is an area you can countenance, explain to me strongly why, but understand we’re going to have to pull in our belt strings.’ ”

mburke@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Keith Laing contributed.