Obama’s final regulatory binge
The Obama Administration’s midnight regulation bender has been something to behold, and now we are learning the remarkable magnitude: 145 new regulations merely in the 36 working days from the election through Dec. 31. The good news: Congress on Wednesday began to stop and repeal the binge.
The numbers come from the American Action Forum, a free-market think tank that looked at the Federal Register and other sources to discover that 31 of those 145 new rules qualify as economically significant, meaning they impose costs of $100 million or more. This final splurge puts Mr. Obama on track to become the most aggressive midnight-rule maker since the Clinton Administration, imposing some $21.7 billion in costs since the election. About $16.4 billion worth are already final regulations while the rest are moving through the rule-making process.
This is astonishing even by the feverish rule-writing of the eight-year Obama Administration. Team Obama issued 39 new rules in March 2016, 55 in May and 57 in November. Someone must have called this pace slacking off, because in December the number soared to 99.
The last-minute push is an effort to complicate life for the Republican agenda, but Congress is considering legislation that would allow it to undo large swaths of Mr. Obama’s new regulations at one time. Under the 1996 Congressional Review Act, Congress can kill new federal regulations on a simple majority vote within 60 working days of being final.
The new bill that passed the House on a 238-184 vote on Wednesday would expand that authority by allowing Congress to nix multiple midnight regulations in a single vote rather than having to hold individual votes to repeal a series of recent regulations. This is a useful efficiency if Congress wants to spend the first 100 days of the Trump Administration doing anything on other issues like, say, health care or judicial nominations.
Undoing the worst rules would be a favor to many small businesses that bear the costs in dollars and extra paperwork. The American Action Forum report notes that some of the largest regulatory costs concern energy and the environment, including $3.6 billion in requirements for commercial vehicle operators, $2.37 billion to regulate natural gas flaring on public lands and $1.55 billion in costs associated with the renewable fuels standard.
President Obama has claimed executive power he doesn’t have to steal Congressional powers that are plainly in the Constitution. Congress has every right to reclaim those powers, and providing more supervision over lawless presidential rule-making is an excellent start.