Burdensome regs? Business groups happy to offer suggestions

Business groups are beginning to flood the White House with requests to scrutinize their least favorite regulations after the Obama administration announced its plan to review existing rules.

On Tuesday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released an executive order and memoranda signed by Obama that would revamp his administration’s regulatory approach. One part of that package was to look back and potentially pare down — if not rescind — duplicative and burdensome regulations. Trade associations cheered the announcement.

The planned review has led a number of business groups to write to OMB and the White House on what regulations they believe need to be axed. At least half a dozen groups have already made statements or written letters requesting certain regulations or proposed rules be withdrawn, according to a review by The Hill.

The American Association for Homecare, for example, wrote a letter to President Obama on Wednesday saying a number of regulations managing the home medical equipment industry deserve “close scrutiny.”

The trade group offered a laundry list of rules dealing with “competitive bidding for durable medical equipment, respiratory therapy (including home oxygen and sleep devices), power mobility devices, diabetes testing equipment and supplies, Medicare audits and anti-fraud and abuse initiatives” that could be reworked under the new executive order.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions wrote a letter to Obama saying a number of proposed regulations by the Federal Reserve, such as the so-called “swipe fee” that puts price caps on debit card interchange fees, need review. The trade group said the Federal Reserve’s proposed caps are “unreasonably low and take into consideration only a fraction of the overall costs of operating a debit card portfolio.”

Other groups are also eager to weigh in with suggestions.

The American Chemistry Council has written to OMB Director Jack Lew taking exception to a proposed rule that would place tough anti-pollution controls on industrial boilers.

Similarly, in a statement praising the review, the National Association of Manufacturers said the proposed boiler rule and efforts to limit greenhouse gases hurt job creation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has used the opportunity to restate its opposition to the healthcare and financial services reform laws, telling the White House it should review all the proposed regulations stemming from them.

A budget office watchdog said that he sees the chance for politics to come into play as the Obama administration conducts its review of regulations.

“Everyone is entitled to create their own 'hit list.' That's fine for democracy,” said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch. “What scares me is if the politics of the time starts shaping the administration's regulatory outlook as the president looks towards his reelection bid.”

Bass added that “Obama has put that regulatory cop back on the beat” and “having that cop on the beat is not something the business community likes.”

During a conference call announcing the regulatory package Tuesday, senior administration officials dismissed suggestions that politics were at play in reviewing existing rules. They said the president wanted to create a more efficient, streamlined regulatory system that could help business and improve health and safety.

The Obama administration’s regulations have often proven to be a sore point for business groups. The Business Roundtable, for example, put together a 54-page document listing regulations they considered burdensome and sent it to then-OMB Director Peter Orszag last year.

Republicans who have long complained of burdensome federal regulations have also reached out to industry. After the GOP took the House last November, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote letters to roughly 150 companies, trade groups and think tanks asking them what regulations they considered troublesome.

Despite the cheering from business, Bass said more time is needed to see how the administration responds with its regulatory review.

“I'm not ready to judge this yet. If the administration starts capitulating, I will be the first person out of the box to criticize them,” Bass said.