Report counters 'midnight rules' accusations

Report counters 'midnight rules' accusations

A regulatory advocacy group is trying to debunk claims that rules finalized at the end of an administration are rushed or sloppily drafted. 

Public Citizen studied all the economically significant regulations that were reviewed by the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) between 1999 and 2015 and found that the rules completed when there was a turn of administrations took longer than average to write and review than rules completed at other times.

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Its report, “Shining a Light on the Midnight Rule Boogeyman,” found it took about 3.6 years on average for the rules finalized during a transition period to be completed and 130 days for them to be reviewed by OIRA compared to other rules finalized at other times, which took 2.8 years to complete and 115 days to review on average. 

“This report destroys the myths about midnight regulations put forward by anti-regulatory forces,” Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said in a statement. “It is neither accurate nor credible to call rulemakings that take almost four years ‘rushed’ just because they’re finalized at the end of an administration.”

With just six months remaining in the current administration, Public Citizen said Republicans lawmakers are stepping up their attacks against forthcoming rules.

Earlier this month, the House passed legislation to put a moratorium on midnight rules.

At the beginning of the year, OIRA Administrator Howard Shelanski sent a memo advising federal agencies to finish their highest priority rulemakings this summer to avoid a burst of midnight regulations before President Obama leaves office.

He asked agencies to adhere closely to the dates established in the fall 2015 regulatory agenda and to notify OIRA if deadlines need to be changed. 

“The phrase 'midnight' implies actions under cover of darkness, when no one is looking – a cartoonish characterization that attempts to conjure up an image of a president suddenly waking up in the final weeks of an administration and hatching and enacting important rules,” Public Citizen says in its report. “But the dataset shows that final rules reviewed in the transition periods have had rulemaking lengths of more than three years, and were under review for longer or a similar number of days on average than rules reviewed outside of the period.”