Obama: Administration favors 'light touch' regarding regulations

President Obama defended his administration’s regulatory record during a speech on this week’s California swing, saying he favors in a “light touch” when it comes to federal rules.

“We don't think government can do everything. We don't think that top-down solutions are the right way to go,” Obama said Thursday night at a speech during a political event in Palo Alto.

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“We believe in the free market,” he continued. “We believe in a light touch when it comes to regulations.  We don't want to tax all businesses out of business.  But we do think that there's a role to play for government."

Congressional Republicans and other conservatives have consistently hammered the Obama administration’s regulatory policies, saying a flood of rules proposed by federal agencies on the president’s watch reflect an ever-growing burden on the private sector.

At the same time, the administration’s rulemaking record has won few accolades among public interest organizations and watchdog groups, who say many important protections have been held up over industry opposition to regulations in the pipeline.

A Congressional Research Service report issued last month found that the Obama administration published hundreds more “major” final rules in its first term than the George W. Bush administration did in its second.

In an annual report to Congress, the White House Office of Management and Budget estimated that regulations issued between 2002 and the end of last year yielded up to $800 billion in benefits, vastly more than their costs.

The report stood in contrast to a report from the conservative Heritage Foundation, which found $70 billion in regulatory costs in the president’s first term.

In his remarks at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee event, Obama acknowledged that that Washington “is broken” and was standing in the way of American progress on numerous fronts.

But he brushed off the suggestion that “government has no role to play,” according to a transcript of the event released by the White House.

He pointed in particular to the issue of climate change.

“We're going to have to make some collective decisions about how much do we care about this when the science is irrefutable,” Obama said. “And that means government is going to have a role to play in helping to organize clean energy research, and making sure that we're taking into account the pollution that we're sending into the air and that we're encouraging new ways of delivering energy and using it more efficiently. We're going to have a role to play.”