GOP looks to ban 'midnight regulations' by lame-duck Obama

Seven House Republicans on Tuesday introduced legislation that would prohibit a lame-duck president from issuing significant regulations, and a Senate version of the bill is expected to be introduced Wednesday.

The Midnight Rule Relief Act, H.R. 4607, follows an April letter from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) that urged President Obama not to pass any "midnight regulations."

"We believe that issuing a raft of midnight regulations would be inconsistent with your January 2009 commitment to transparency and accountability in the rulemaking process," they wrote.

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H.R. 4607 goes much further than a request, by preventing "significant" regulations from being promulgated from the day after the November election through Jan. 20, Obama's last day in office should he lose.

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Republican supporters of the bill said an outgoing president should not have the authority to issue these rules, which the bill defines as those having an impact on the economy of $100 million or more.

"My legislation will ensure that businesses in northeast Wisconsin and across the country aren't hit by an onslaught of new, costly regulations imposed by an administration that isn't accountable to the people," said bill sponsor Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.). "Instead of serving an effective purpose, many federal regulations nowadays act like crosshairs on job creation. Unnecessary regulations could stifle productivity, hinder job creation and deter innovation."

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) will introduce a Senate version on Wednesday, along with several Senate Republican co-sponsors.

"Significant regulatory actions should be proposed and put in place before Election Day," Johnson said. "Too often, Presidents wait until after the voters have spoken to impose new and costly rules — rules that the people ought to know about before going to the polls.

"This bill ensures that except for some specific circumstance, new major regulations will not be imposed once a President has become a lame duck," he added.

The bill highlights GOP worries that if Obama is defeated by Mitt Romney, he could spend his last two and a half months in office issuing major new rules that Republicans will oppose.

While just introduced Tuesday, Ribble's office said the bill is "moving quickly" through the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and will be marked up in the coming days. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is a sponsor of the bill.

"This is a straightforward good-government reform," Issa said. "Any president who has lost his mandate to govern should not be permitted to hatch costly new regulatory schemes on his way out the door."

Other sponsors of the bill are Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), John Carter (R-Texas), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.).

— This story was updated at 10:27 a.m. to add information about the Senate bill.