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By Michael Bastasch
President Donald Trump has embarked on the largest regulatory rollback effort since the Reagan-era, delaying or withdrawing hundreds of rules and working with Congress to repeal dozens more.
The Trump administration withdrew 24 economically significant rules –those costing more than $100 million — in his first week, and delayed the publication of about 250 more regulations with an an executive order to halt the publication of “midnight” regulations pushed by President Barack Obama.
All told, Trump’s put a hold on $181 billion worth of new regulations, according to data compiled by the right-leaning American Action Forum (AAF). That includes 22 costing more than $100 million and 16 measures costing more than $1 billion in the long-run.
“The incredible regulatory output of the Lame Duck Obama Administration has given President Trump plenty of reform opportunities, but it will take months to vet the last pieces of President Obama’s regulatory legacy,” Sam Batkins, AAF’s director of regulatory policy, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Obama finished 2016 publishing enough regulations to fill 97,110 pages in the Federal Register — an all-time record. Trump’s planning on cutting 75 percent of federal regulations, or tens of thousands of pages from the Federal Register, in a bid to boost economic growth.
Trump’s regulatory freeze, for example, has pushed back the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) publishing of 30 regulations. EPA even withdrew a regulation on how dentists dispose of mercury.
The first executive order Trump signed ordered federal agencies to rollback enforcement of the Affordable Care Act and prepare the law for repeal. The administration also delayed a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill governing how financial brokers advise their clients, called the “fiduciary rule.”
Obama published $157 billion in “midnight” regulations during his final weeks in office, providing Trump with a target-rich regulatory environment to go after.
“I imagine the first pieces to go could be the rushed direct final rules from the Department of Energy. Combined, they could impose $15 billion in burdens,” Batkins said.
Trump’s regulatory rollback has angered many liberal groups that have spent year lobbying regulatory agencies during Obama’s “pen and phone” years to put in place regulations on consumer goods, energy and education.
Three liberal groups joined forces to sue the Trump administration over his ordering federal agencies to cut two regulations for every new one published. Public Citizen, NRDC and the Communications Workers of America said the order will “force agencies to take regulatory actions that harm the people of this nation.”
The liberal groups argue Trump’s “zero” net regulatory cost order would eliminate critical regulations to protect the public. NRDC is also suing the EPA for withdrawing its mercury rule for dental offices.
But Trump is limited on what he can do on his own. The Republican-controlled Congress plans on passing legislation to undo rules imposed during Obama’s final months.
Congress has introduced 37 resolutions to repeal Obama-era rules under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), according to The Washington Post. House lawmakers have passed eight bills to eliminate Obama-era rules, and two of those have been approved by the Senate.
Lawmakers in both chambers already passed a CRA resolution to repeal the Stream Protection Rule on coal mining and a rule requiring oil and gas companies to publicly disclose payment to foreign governments. Both await Trump’s signature.
Trump’s expected to sign both CRA bills, marking the second and third time the CRA was successfully used to strike down federal regulations since 2001 when lawmakers overturned a Clinton-era ergonomics rule.
But even the CRA only goes so far, applying only to regulations finalized within 60 legislative days. Older rules will have to repealed through a larger, more bureaucratic process that’s subject to lawsuits and public comment.
It’s here activists can cause some headaches for the administration.
“People will litigate,” Susan Dudley, the former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under President George W. Bush, told Marketplace, “because once a regulation is in effect, those who have already complied with it, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh, never mind, let’s remove that.’”
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