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Keeping wall promise is blocking other signature Trump pledges

Ryan Beene and Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's promise to build a wall along the Mexican border is keeping him from honoring some of his other high-profile campaign pledges and policy priorities.

A State Department review of the Keystone XL pipeline could stall. Payments to farmers who lost sales due to the trade war with China were being processed by an office that is now closed. And his promise to Detroit to ease auto emissions targets has effectively been put on hold by the shutdown of more than a dozen federal agencies in a fight over funding the border wall.

Even his signature push to roll back regulations across the government -- announced with a mock cutting of ribbon surrounding a mountain of paper -- is largely on hold during the shutdown. Although the Federal Register, the government repository for rulemaking documents, is still being published, it hasn't contained any regulatory proposals since the shutdown began, said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy analyst with Public Citizen, a watchdog group.

"They've basically gone completely dark, and you cannot officially propose a regulation and kick off a public comment period until it's published in the Federal Register," Narang said. "That is an enormous choke point that is really acting as a pause button for the Trump deregulatory agenda."

More than a dozen major government departments have been shuttered and some 800,000 employees are either furloughed or working without pay, impeding work across the federal government.

Consider Keystone XL, TransCanada Corp.'s long-delayed pipeline to transport Canadian crude to Gulf Coast refineries.

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Trump campaigned on a promise to approve the pipeline and took action to accelerate its construction his fourth full day in office, issuing an executive order that imposed a deadline on a new federal government review of the project.

Even at agencies exempted from the shutdown, it can be hard to get things done. Calls to experts won't be returned; emails go unanswered. Colleagues may be furloughed, even if some staffers are spared. And once the government reopens, picking up where agencies left off may be easier said than done.

But now, the shutdown has ensnared Keystone. A fresh State Department review of the $8 billion project appears to have been halted amid the lapse in funding. And TransCanada warned in a court filing Monday that the Calgary-based company faces lost profits and higher construction costs if work is significantly delayed.

It's not even clear if a court hearing scheduled for Jan. 14 will go forward, because the Justice Department, which represents State in the proceedings, lacks funding.

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