OVERNIGHT REGULATION: Obama ‘hitting the accelerator’

Capitol Hill asbestos crisis averted, another Thursday is in the books. But before you knock off for the evening, catch up with all of today’s top regulatory and enforcement headlines and tomorrow’s emerging storylines with OVERNIGHT REGULATION. Click here to sign up for the newsletter.

Now, let’s talk about regs.

 

THE BIG STORY

PRESIDENT OBAMA is just getting started in his effort to use every ounce of his executive authority to accomplish policy goals in 2014.

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This was the message Thursday afternoon from Jeff Zients, director of the president’s National Economic Council, who touted a new report detailing the first six months of Obama’s “year of action.”

Zients and Labor Secretary Tom Perez said 44 administrative steps listed in the report have contributed to a rate of economic growth unseen in the first half of a calendar year since 1999. 

“The president is hitting the accelerator and growing our economy to create jobs,” said Zients. http://j.mp/1kaCCrr

Three key takeaways from the report’s rollout:

1) Only a handful of the items listed in the report are formal executive orders. The rest – a hodgepodge of regulatory undertakings, presidential memoranda, White House summits, initiatives and other announcements – reflect Obama’s resolve to use every tool available to him. The White House has sought to brand all such directives as “executive actions,” which perhaps sound a bit more positive than “orders.” 

2) The decision to trumpet the president’s unilateral actions comes as Republicans seek to (in the months before a pivotal election) increase the drumbeat of accusations that Obama has overstepped. House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to mount a legal challenge of the president’s executive actions was panned by Zients, who called it “a taxpayer-funded lawsuit” that the American public would oppose. It is rare in politics that those on opposite sides of a fight could rally their supporters with the exact same message: ‘This president is doing every thing he can, without backing from Congress.” 

3) This is just the beginning. The White House signaled that the pace of executive action would not slow in the second half of 2014, and could increase as Congress becomes more consumed with the midterms.

“We will continue to roll out new executive actions and execute them,” Zients told The Hill. “The President will continue to push his foot down on the accelerator.” http://j.mp/1kaCCrr

 

ON TAP FOR FRIDAY

Congress is wrapping up a workweek that saw the House make progress on appropriations bills that stand little chance of Senate passage, and the Senate fail to pass a pro-gun bill backed by Democrats. Ah, Congress.

President Obama will be back at the White House following a three-day trip across Colorado and Texas. He has no public events scheduled.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will look at environmental regulations through the lens of constitutional law during a hearing featuring testimony from scholars. http://j.mp/1ncencd

The House Judiciary Committee will convene a hearing on the “Over-criminalization Task Force,” focused on federal sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimums and other hot issues in the criminal justice system. http://j.mp/1jvahBz

 

TOMORROW’S REGS TODAY

The Obama administration plans to issue 222 new regulations, proposed rules, notices and other administrative actions in Friday's edition of the Federal Register.

-The Department of Justice will appoint temporary immigration judges to handle the influx of deportation cases that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is dealing with.

The reinforcements are meant to aid the nation’s 243 full-time immigration judges who are already overwhelmed with a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases, and are now being reassigned to deal with the flood of unaccompanied child migrants flooding over the Southwest border.

“EOIR is currently managing the largest caseload the immigration court system has ever seen,” the agency said. http://j.mp/W1oknM

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General is issuing a report that details a growing problem of fraud within Medicare, including "kickbacks" for doctors. http://j.mp/1zsfJcS

-The Energy Department will issue new rules for residential and commercial water heaters to make sure they comply with efficiency standards. The new testing requirements go into effect on July 13, 2015. http://j.mp/1zsfEpH

-The Department of Transportation will issue new rules for companies that transport radioactive material. The changes align U.S. rules with international standards and go into effect on Oct. 1. http://j.mp/1mkzo9k

-The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will delay a rule that would affect certain populations of humpback whales on the Endangered Species List. http://j.mp/1xZLPLr 

 

RT:

@(Sen.)RonWyden: We've seen over past 20 yrs you should not force old regulations on fundamentally new innovations (like Uber & Aereo)

@(Rep.)KenCalvert: The Interior Appropriations bill protects Americans from the onslaught of job-killing regulations coming from the Obama admin and EPA.

@NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee): Landrieu Is Doing Little to Stop the Oncoming EPA Regulations Threatening Her State

 

NEWS RIGHT NOW:

PAY UP! Senate Republicans are sounding the alarm on an Environmental Protection Agency rule that would allow the EPA to garnish the wages of people who owe the agency money for unpaid fines and fees, The Hill's Tim Cama reports. http://j.mp/1nijdJW

RUNAWAY JURY: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says women should be afraid of the Supreme Court, following two recent rulings that limit women's access to birth control. "We should be afraid of this court," she said. "That five guys should start determining what contraceptions are legal or not... it's so stunning." http://j.mp/1kIxB9C

TWO APPLES A DAY: A new inspector general's report warns that doctors may be receiving "kickbacks" for making unnecessary Medicare referrals. The report estimates the scheme costs taxpayers about $1.7 billion a year. http://j.mp/1sDzDgk 

DODD-FRANK: A new study finds that economic regulations are increasing at a greater pace than environmental and health regulations, as the Obama administration tries to steer Wall Street away from another financial collapse. http://j.mp/1onOvvd

POLLUTION: The EPA is considering a new ban on certain greenhouse gases that are used as ingredients in vehicle air conditioners, refrigerators, and aerosol propellants. http://j.mp/1sDAsWk

PENCE-IVE Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is urging Congress to defund the EPA's climate regulations, and most notably the agency's controversial rule limiting greenhouse gas emissions at new and existing coal plants. http://j.mp/1nivb6n

PAYDAY BENDER: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is fining a payday lender $10 million for using unfair debt collection practices, Reuters reports. http://j.mp/1zskhjk

 

BY THE NUMBERS:

243: The current number of federal immigration judges. 

350,000: The number of pending deportation cases at the end of last year.

52,000: The estimated number of migrant children who have illegally crossed the border since then.

1,400: The average number of deportation cases a single judge is responsible for each year.

15: The number of temporary immigration judges who will be hired to help clear the backlog of deportation cases.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“The phone is ringing with regularity at the Department of Labor and we continue to order more pens,” – Labor Secretary Tom Perez on plans to push forward with regulations as part of Obama’s “year of action.”

 

We’ll endeavor to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill’s Regulation page early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, via bgoad@thehill.com or tdevaney@thehill.com. And follow us at @ben_goad and @timdevaney.