WH office warns agencies against 'midnight regulations'

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The Obama administration has advised federal agencies to finish their highest priority rule-makings this summer to avoid a burst of "midnight regulations" before President Obama leaves office.

In a memo dated Dec. 17 that was obtained by The Hill, Howard Shelanski, the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), asks agencies to adhere closely to the dates established in the fall 2015 regulatory agenda and to notify OIRA if deadlines need to be changed.

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OIRA said it understands that agencies will need to issue regulations through 2016, since they are part of the government's normal operations, but said big regulatory initiatives should be finished well before the end of Obama's term.

“To the extent feasible and consistent with your priorities, statutory obligations and judicial deadlines, however, agencies should strive to complete their highest priority rulemakings by summer 2016 to avail and end-of-year scramble that has the potential to lower the quality of regulations that OIRA receives for review and to tax the resources available for interagency review,” the letter said.

OIRA reviews all federal regulations before they are made final. It is often called one of the most powerful offices in the government, though it is little known outside of Washington.

While OIRA said it will be mindful of agency deadlines when reviewing regulations, it said agencies can ease the process by providing advance notice about submissions and by making sure proposed rules are well drafted, thorough and complete.