Roundtable offers up regs to scrap

The Business Roundtable has sent a lengthy letter to President Obama detailing proposed regulations that it says could hinder job creation.

The April 12 letter is known internally at the business group as “Orszag 2,” since it follows a similar letter sent in June to then-Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag detailing the Roundtable’s problems with federal rules and regulations.

That missive attracted controversy since it laid out precise steps the White House could take to help win over business, which has often been a harsh critic of the administration.

The sequel letter advises administration officials to delay, if not end outright, many of the proposed rules under consideration this year.

Johanna Schneider, the Roundtable’s executive director for external relations, said after receiving feedback from the Obama administration on its first letter, the business group decided to drill down to what could be done specifically to create jobs in the United States.

“We created what we called ‘Orszag 2,’ which attempted to narrow down and provide some clarity on what could create jobs,” Schneider told The Hill. “It is our responsibility as an organization to identify roadblocks to hiring. And that’s what it is.”

The letter totaled 34 pages, including an attachment listing what regulations and rules need more work; its precursor was 54 pages long. Written by Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Co. and a member of the Roundtable executive committee, the document was based on feedback from the business group’s members — the CEOs of some of the nation’s largest companies.

“Businesses today are facing an unprecedented number of new and pending regulatory requirements that, when added to the substantial array of existing regulations applicable to business, create chilling uncertainty, add significant costs and divert substantial capital from more productive, job-creating uses,” Liveris wrote.

Copied on the letter to Obama was White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley; senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein; Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway CEO Matthew Rose; and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt. Rose and Immelt are both members of the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Immelt is chairman of the president’s council and also serves on the Roundtable’s executive committee.

Schneider said the business group has heard back from OIRA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the latest letter. Roundtable officials expect to meet with EPA officials this week to discuss regulations, Schneider said.

The letter focuses heavily on the EPA. It advises that the agency should delay regulations for ozone air-quality standards, modify its pollution standards for industrial boilers and stall enforcement of its greenhouse gas regulations, among other items.

The massive healthcare and financial services reform laws also come under the microscope. The Roundtable recommends that the administration not propose regulations that “impose unnecessary costs” on the health insurance market and warns against “unnecessary burdens” on derivative end-users.

Like the first letter, “Orszag 2” recommends that the government back off of issuing regulations. That has led to criticism from some who favor federal rules to help ensure health and safety.

“This is really about special interests attempting to write the rules,” said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch.

“I’m very frustrated with the business community defining the regulatory realm in the context of their own self-interests,” Bass said. “Where’s protecting people? It’s not even on there.”

The Roundtable’s letter follows Obama’s call for a government-wide regulatory review earlier this year, which was cheered by business but criticized by labor and liberal groups. Several regulations have been stalled or temporarily withdrawn since that review was announced.

Bass said the jury is still out on whether the regulatory review has led to the administration backing away from needed rules.

“It’s clear that the business community is putting pressure on this administration to modify on how it reviews regulations,” Bass said. “It’s not clear how the administration is going to respond to that pressure.”

At the Roundtable, the review is seen as an opportunity for business to tell the White House where it can work with the government to fuel job creation.

“The beauty of this letter to the president is it prioritizes in direct relationship to jobs,” Schneider said.

“We have tried very hard to point out ones that will help create job creation.”

- This article was corrected to reflect that Andrew Liveris is a member of the Roundtable's executive committee.