Pro-regulation groups urge Obama to call for additional rules

A coalition of groups backing strengthened federal regulations is looking for President Obama to speak forcefully in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about the need for public safeguards – and his intention to use presidential power to obtain them.

Obama has signaled a willingness to accomplish through executive authority those elements of his policy agenda that the divided Congress will not approve. He is widely expected to outline additional steps that his administration can take during the speech.

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“We’re expecting there are some things that the executive branch can do,” said Katherine McFate, co-chair of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. 

The group is made up of several organizations pushing for tougher rules in an array of areas, ranging from the environment to Wall Street.

Following a disastrous 2010 mid-term election for Democrats and ramping up to his own re-election bid, Obama delivered a mixed bag of regulatory remarks in his last State of the Union address.

He spoke during that speech of the need for regulations, but emphasized his push to get rid of burdensome and unnecessary rules. He pointed to one in particular requiring dairy farmers to pay thousands of dollars annually to prove they could contain a spill, as though their product was hazardous.

“With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk,” he joked, to applause and laughter.

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is hoping Obama will get serious about regulations this time around and “channel Teddy Roosevelt,” McFate said.

Roosevelt is among many U.S. presidents who relied more heavily on executive power in their second terms. Many believe Obama will go to new lengths, particularly on efforts to counter the effects on climate change.

He made clear in his inaugural address last month that he intends to pursue measures on the issue that have little chance of passing Congress.  Whether he will announce specific plans to impose new air quality standards or additional restrictions on power plant emissions remains unknown.

He could also preview plans to roll out new proposed cybersecurity rules to combat hackers later this week.

There are also numerous pending proposals on workforce and food safety, not to mention hundreds of rules now being crafted to implement Obama’s signature health care law and the financial reform law known as Dodd-Frank.

“It would be great if he said something about getting some of the Dodd-Frank rules out more quickly,” McFate said.