Obama's regulatory czar under pressure to cutoff 'midnight rules'

The White House’s regulatory chief is coming under scrutiny from Republicans over a surge of midnight regulations.

Howard Shelanski, who runs the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), is tasked with reviewing major rules before they are issued by federal agencies.

Currently, there are 136 regulations — including 27 economically significant rules that will each cost more than $100 million in compliance costs — awaiting OIRA approval.

With the clocking ticking down on the Obama administration, Shelanski must referee a fight between federal regulators looking to leave their stamp on Washington before its too late and Republican lawmakers who are threatening to overturn those rules once President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE takes office in late January.

In a letter to Shelanski sent Wednesday, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFDA tobacco crackdown draws fire from right Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigs | Proposes ban on menthol in tobacco | Left wants vote on single-payer bill in new Congress | More than 12k lost Medicaid in Arkansas Commerce Department IG to audit Trump's tariff exemptions MORE (R-Wis.) urged OIRA to cease work on “all midnight regulations.”

“The Obama administration is enacting economically-significant regulations at an unprecedented rate compared to previous administrations,” Johnson wrote.

This comes on the heels of three letters Johnson sent last week to the Labor Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, urging them to stop working on controversial regulations.

Johnson acknowledged that Shelanski is under “pressure to have these rules finalized” before the Obama administration ends and the Trump administration begins, but cautioned the OIRA chief to maintain “high standards when reviewing regulations rather than pushing them through” the pipeline.

Last December, Shelanski urged federal agencies to “complete their highest priority rule makings by the summer of 2016 to avoid an end-of-year scramble that has the potential to lower the quality of regulations that OIRA receives for review and to tax resources available for interagency review.”

But after Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man Pipeline paralysis: The left’s latest fossil fuel obstruction tactic Mueller could turn easy Trump answers into difficult situation MORE in November's election, the number of high-profile regulations peaked.

“Now, with 27 economically-significant regulations still pending in the waning days of the Obama administration, there is a strong possibility of lower-quality final regulations,” Johnson warned.