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Obama regulation repeal in works

The rescinding of President Obama’s record-breaking regulatory reign has begun even before he leaves office.

Congressional Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump are eyeing more than 140 Obama regulations for repeal — including fuel efficiency standards for trucks and food labeling requirements for serving sizes — after the next administration takes office on Jan. 20.

Armed with a rarely used tool known as the Congressional Review Act, lawmakers will be able to nullify a variety of Mr. Obama’s final-year rules without the threat of a filibuster from Senate Democrats.

“We will use all tools at our disposal to roll back President Obama’s harmful rules and regulations, including the Congressional Review Act where possible,” said Doug Andres, an aide to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican.

Congressional Republicans have tried to use the act several times to repeal Mr. Obama’s actions, but each time he vetoed the legislation.

Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the conservative American Action Forum, and researcher Dan Goldbeck said Mr. Trump and Congress could use the Congressional Review Act to repeal at least 48 major regulations with a minimum total regulatory costs of more than $ 42 billion and 53 million hours of paperwork.

“With the stars aligning for Republican leaders, this could lead to major policy changes for regulation,” they wrote in a blog post. “Republicans have the opportunity to enact regulatory reform on a scale not witnessed since President Reagan.”

The president is piling up the red tape just as fast as conservatives are plotting to cut it after he departs. The Federal Register, the government’s official book of proposed rules and regulations, grew a record 83,106 pages on Friday, with six weeks remaining in the year.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who tracks federal rule-making. “The Federal Register jumped up over 1,400 pages in one day [Thursday]. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this year finish out at well over 90,000 pages. [Mr. Obama] has not slowed anything down.”

While the number of overall federal rules tends to remain steady around 3,400 per year, Mr. Crews said, Mr. Obama has issued far more “economically significant” rules — those with projected economic impacts of $ 100 million or more.

President George W. Bush completed 390 economically significant rules in eight years. During Mr. Obama’s two terms, 551 economically significant rules have been completed so far — an average of 69 per year compared with 49 annually under Mr. Bush.

The administration is believed to be preparing at least five environmental regulations to issue before the end of Mr. Obama’s presidency. The Wall Street Journal reported that four of the rules are at the Department of Interior, while a fifth involving volume targets for the Renewable Fuel Standard is at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Interior Department on Friday released its final five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan, blocking new drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The move drew praise from environmentalists and criticism from Republican lawmakers and industry representatives.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the final revised policy on mitigating the adverse effects of development. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, Utah Republican, blasted the policy as a “midnight” regulation.

“Up until the bitter end, this administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service is forcing damaging, last-minute edicts on their way out the door,” Mr. Bishop said. “I have significant concerns that this ‘mitigation’ policy will only create more undue barriers to economic activity and infrastructure needs. It sets irresponsible mitigation standards. This rule won’t help the environment or the American people, but it will do wonders for the special-left interest and litigious groups that have Obama’s ear.”

Also last week, the Interior Department issued a regulation intended to control emissions of methane from oil and natural gas wells on federal and Indian tribal lands.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, promised to repeal it.

“Congress has many tools with which to rescind this rule, and I look forward to working with the incoming Trump administration to ensure economic expansion prevails over misguided bureaucratic interference,” he said.

As of Friday, more than 2,100 proposed rules from the Obama administration were still in the regulatory pipeline. But Mr. Crews said any rules not completed by Jan. 20 will be frozen at the change of administrations.

The Congressional Review Act was enacted more than 20 years ago during the House speakership of Newt Gingrich, now a top adviser to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Crews said he hopes the Republican-led Congress and incoming Republican presidential administration will use the opportunity to confront the rationale for rule-making across the federal government rather than attacking only individual regulations from the Obama era.

“They shouldn’t just be trimming back these agencies without questioning the categories of regulation — the idea that the federal government knows best what to do about privacy or cybersecurity or communications under the FCC,” Mr. Crews said. “It’s about criticizing the agencies themselves. They need to question that, too, not just the 150 rules that happen to be on the cusp between two administrations. What better chance has there ever been to try to do something like that?”

Mr. Obama said Sunday that his administration’s recently released regulations “are ones that we’ve been working on for a very long time.”

“These aren’t things we’ve been surprising people with,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference in Peru, where he was attending a summit. “They’re the right thing to do. They’re part of my task of finishing my work.”

If Republicans want to repeal some of them, he said, “that’s their prerogative. That’s part of how democracy works.”

Obamacare is often cited as one of the most regulation-heavy initiatives of Mr. Obama’s presidency. In an interview with The New Yorker published Friday, the president said he believes his signature health care law is among the “most vulnerable” to be rewritten or repealed.

“That has been a unifying bogeyman for Republicans over the course of the last six years,” Mr. Obama said. “In the minds of a lot of the Republican base, it is an example of a big-government program designed to take something from them and give it to someone else who is unworthy.”

Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with House Republicans in Washington last week and pledged that one of Mr. Trump’s top priorities is also to comb through Mr. Obama’s executive orders.

“We applaud that,” said Rep. Chris Collins of New York, the House Republican liaison to the Trump transition team. “He will be reversing many of them.”

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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