At federal agencies across Washington, regulators are rushing to finalise regulations before President Barack Obama leaves the White House.
Where the administration has issued an average of 2.2 regulations per day this year, 10 were pushed out the door on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a counting by the American Action Forum.
“Were operating — not walking — through the finishing line of President Obamas presidency, ” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said to agency staff in a post-election e-mail.
The Federal Register, the dense tome where the government publishes “agencies ” regulations, swelled to 1,465 pages on Friday — the thickest volume yet this year. Since the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump, who has vowed to fight revolutionary regulations, the White House has finished its further consideration of nine economically significant regulations — compared to eight during all of September.
One reason for the speed: The later the existing regulations is released by an outgoing administration, the easier it can be killed by the next one. Republican lawmakers are on track to adjourn early to take advantage of a measure intended to guard against so-called midnight rule-making that permits them to void regulations put in place in the last 60 days of the legislative session.
Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, wryly noted that “Congress has many tools” with which it can repeal rules.
Read more: Trump Knows where there is Some Regulations Easier to Kill Than Others
Recent entries in the Federal Register include an Interior Department rule cracking down on methane emissions from oil wells and measures aiming to help highly skilled immigrant workers get green cards. On the horizon: a creek protection regulation for coal mining, limits on the use of hydrofluorocarbons, new leak detection requirements for oil well and quotums for boosting biofuel use in gasoline.
Whats the hasten? Blame the human propensity toward procrastination — as well as a outcry to get new regulations in place in hopes they will endure long after President-elect Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. From corner offices to cubicles, relevant agencies leaders and staff who have been toiling on rules sometimes for years are eager to get them across the finishing line, told Susan Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University.
Even if Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, “we would be seeing an uptick in regulatory activity, ” she told, because staff member dont want to leave their work unfinished. Delays are inevitable whenever a new administration moves in — even one with a similar mindset — because of staff turnover and subtle transformations in approach.
“Its simply human nature to procrastinate, and to believe Ive get until Jan. 20 — and legitimately, they do, ” told Dudley, who presided over the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs during the final two years of President George W. Bushs administration .. “Theres no reason on Earth why a chairperson shouldnt use all of his powers up until the end.”
Even after new regulations are published in the Federal Register, theres typically a 60 -day lag before they go into consequence. And while Trump can work in concert with Republican on Capitol hill to swiftly repeal regulations enforced since late May — and apply a time-consuming administrative process to rewrite older measures — its much easier to spike those that havent yet gone into effect.
“That ability to put on hold and essentially withdraw regulations by the previous administration is much, much more efficient than repealing regulations, ” told Amit Narang, regulatory policy proponent for Public Citizens Congress Watch. “Of course, thats why it is so critical, because once you have a rule on the books, its harder to undo.”
For example, the methane regulation that the Interior Department unveiled on Monday and which was published in Fridays Federal Register has an effective date of Jan. 17 — simply three days before Obama turns over the keys to the White House.
Its expected that moments after Trump is sworn in, his government will place a moratorium on new regulations and draw back any others that are on their route to the Federal Register but havent yet been published, Dudley told. The Trump administration could also extend the effective date of rules that have been published but have not yet gone into consequence, giving appointees time to get corroborated, review the rules and, perhaps, chart a different course.
Theres precedent for ordering a stand down; the Obama administration did the same thing on Jan. 20, 2009.
Top Republican have already would be in danger of invoke their powers under the 20 -year-old Congressional Review Act to fling regulations they despise within 60 legislative days of their enactment on a simple majority vote, without anxiety of filibusters.
Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, told legislators would repeal at the least a half dozen regulations in the week after the new Congress convenes. And House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, joined 21 committee chairpeople in formally admonishing agencies they would take a dim view of any policymaking in the Obama administrations wane months.
“We write to caution you against finalise pending regulations or regulations in the administrations last day, ” they said in a Nov. 15 letter to bureau and department heads. “Should you dismiss this advise, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions — and, if appropriate, overturn them.”
Congressional leaders are speeding up their remaining legislative business in hopes of getting home sooner — and ensuring more regulations are ripe for a rollback.
Congress May Leave Early in an Endeavor to Thwart Overtime Rule
By wrapping up a week sooner, theyll be able to use a resolution of disapproval to go after a Labor Department rule letting millions more employees to collect overtime pay that was published May 23 and is set to go into consequence Dec. 1.
Hundreds of other regulations issued this year also would be eligible for expedited nullification under the Congressional Review Act.
Some agencies appear to be heeding lawmakers advise to close up shop. After senior Republican asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to set the brakes on nearly all new regulations and actions, relevant agencies canceled a planned vote on the rates charged for data lines used by businesses.
The agencies have no incentive to hold back, told Sam Batkins, with the American Action Forum, a think tank that favors smaller government.
“Not all of these rules will make their route into CRA resolutions of disapproval, and theres a pretty significant chance that any one midnight regulation wont be overturned by the next administration, so whats the incentive to hold them? ” Batkins told. “If youre simply playing the odds, patently you should publish them.”
Environmentalists are espousing that calculus and lobbying the Obama administration to go big and bold by creating national monuments and enforcing new air rules.
“Weve told the White House and Interior Department on everything — whether its offshore drilling or national monuments — to be as ambitious as possible.” told Athan Manuel, director of lands protection for the Sierra Club. “Whatever they do, were going to have to defend it no matter what they propose, so we might as well ask for the moon.”
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