Trump puts Obama regulations on the chopping block


President Donald Trump has vowed to cut regulations by 75 percent, pledging to wipe many of the Obama administration’s rules off the page.

“We’re going to be cutting regulation massively,” Trump told business leaders last week at the White House. “We think we can cut regulations by 75 percent, maybe more.”

The first shot came hours after Trump’s inauguration, when he signed papers imposing a moratorium on new rules.

{mosads}Separately, the Trump administration plans to gut what it sees as outdated and burdensome regulations. On Monday, Trump signed an executive order dictating that for every new regulation enacted, another two must be identified for elimination.

Here’s how the Trump government will attack former President Obama’s regulatory legacy.

Moratorium on new rules

Trump’s regulatory moratorium will choke off any remaining Obama-era rules that are still in federal agency pipelines.

The Federal Register was flooded with so-called “midnight regulations” in the final days of the Obama administration.

Trump’s order requires agencies to rescind these rules and delay the implementation of others.

In 2009, President Obama issued a similar order.

Both the Trump and Obama moratoriums carved out exemptions for regulations that are critical to public health and safety.

Repealing recent rules

Trump vowed to repeal 75 percent of existing government regulations, but that may be difficult to quantify.

The president has not indicated whether he intends to reduce the number of “rules” or the number of “pages” in the Federal Register, which has logged more than 819,000 rule documents and 672,000 proposed rule documents since 1976 alone.

Trump could team with Congress to withdraw recently issued rules through the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to repeal new rules they disapprove of with a simple majority.

In the last Congress, Republicans overturned four regulations with this legislative tool, but Obama vetoed each one of them. The only time it has ever been used successfully was after George W. Bush became president in 2001, and Republicans overturned a Clinton-era labor regulation.

That is expected to change with Trump in the White House.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last week revealed five regulations Congress will target, including the Labor Department’s blacklisting rule, as well as the Interior Department’s methane emissions standards and stream protection rule that puts the coal industry under a microscope.

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) restrictions on gun ownership are also facing criticism from lawmakers, as is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) disclosure rule for extracted minerals.

The problem is that Congress can only reach back to about June 2016, said Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the business-minded American Action Forum, because the Congressional Review Act applies to rules that have been issued in the last 60 “legislative days.”

To formally reverse older rules, federal agencies would be required to go through the same time-consuming rulemaking process they went through to pass the rule in the first place. This can take months or years.

Executive action

Trump could issue executive orders instructing federal agencies not to follow their own rules.

President Obama took a similar action with his executive order on immigration, when he told the Department of Homeland Security not to prioritize the deportations of certain undocumented immigrants.

Trump could also establish what’s known in Republican circles as a “regulatory budget” through executive order, which would limit the cost of rulemaking at federal agencies. 

A regulatory budget would force federal agencies to eliminate costly rules before they issue new ones.

Trump took a crack at this Monday when the president signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to repeal two regulations of equal value for every new rule they issue.

Proponents of a regulatory budget argue that it has been utilized successfully in Canada and the United Kingdom. But critics say it is an arbitrary policy that could limit the effectiveness of federal agencies.

Reform legislation

Republicans hope to achieve longer-lasting regulatory reforms on Capitol Hill that might be more difficult for a future president to reverse.

Passing bills could be difficult, however, since legislation will require 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a potential Democratic filibuster.
Republicans have sought to partner with centrist Democrats, many of whom represent states won by Trump in the presidential election, to enact regulatory reform.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) teamed up with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on three regulatory reform measures in the last Congress that they plan to bring back: the Smarter Regulations Through Advance Planning and Review Act; Early Participation in Regulations Act; and Principled Rulemaking Act. 

The first would require federal agencies to list the objectives of major rules and lay out a plan to review their progress within 10 years.

The Early Participation in Regulations Act would require federal agencies to issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking before they formally propose major regulations. The advanced notice would identify the problem the rule addresses, and discuss regulatory alternatives.

The Principled Rulemaking Act would limit the rules federal agencies may issue to those that are “required by law, necessary to interpret a law, or made necessary by public need, to protect or improve the health and safety of the public, the environment, or the wellbeing of the people of the United States.”

Lankford and Heitkamp believe they can build bipartisan support on these bills.

And Republicans think they may be able to gain traction with other bills centering on transparency and small business.

The Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act requires federal agencies to issue summaries of their rules in “plain language” to make it easier for the public to understand. The House passed the bill in January.

The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would instruct federal agencies to include the indirect costs and consider how it will impact small businesses.

Currently, when federal agencies publish a major regulation, they include a cost-benefit analysis to help the public weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the rule. But they are only required to measure the direct costs.  The House also passed that bill in January.
“The prospects are decent for filibuster on most of the bills, although there might be one or two that are under the radar and don’t seem as radical that might slip through,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at the left-leaning Public Citizen group.

Tags Donald Trump Heidi Heitkamp
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