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Government Accountability Office Database on Regulations

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Government Accountability Office Database on Regulations

Ten Thousand Commandments 2020 - Chapter 9

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The various federal reports and databases on regulations serve different purposes:

  • The Federal Register shows the ag- gregate number of proposed and final rules—both those that affect the private sector and those that deal with internal government machinery or programs— and numerous notices and presidential documents.
  • The Unified Agenda depicts agency regulatory priorities and provides details about the overall number of rules at various stages in the regulatory pipe- line, as well as those with economically significant effects and those affecting small businesses and state and local governments.

The 1996 Congressional Review Act requires agencies to submit reports to Congress on their major rules—those with annual esti- mated costs of $100 million or more. Ow- ing to such reports, which are prepared and maintained in a database at the Government Accountability Office, one can more readily observe (a) which of the thousands of final rules that agencies issue each year are major (to the extent the directive is obeyed) and (b) which departments and agencies are produc- ing the major rules.510

The CRA gives Congress a window of 60 legislative days in which to review a received major rule and pass a resolution of disap- proval rejecting the rule. Despite the issu- ance of thousands of rules since the CRA’s passage, including many dozens of major rules, prior to 2017 only one had been re- jected: the Department of Labor’s rule on workplace repetitive-motion injuries in early 2001. Since the start of the 115th Congress in January 2017, the CRA has been used 16 times to overturn regulations.511 Accord- ing to recent analysis, however, some final rules are not being properly submitted to the GAO and to Congress as required under the CRA, and major guidance only rarely has been submitted.512

Major rules can add burdens, reduce them, implement delays, or set rates and stan- dards for major governmental programs like Medicaid. Table 11 depicts the number of final major rule reports issued by the GAO regarding agency rules through calendar year 2019. There were 74 major rules in 2019 based on a search of the GAO’s database, a significant increase from the 55 in 2018 and 49 in 2017.513 The 119 major rules in 2016 under Obama were the highest count since this tabulation began at GAO following pas- sage of the CRA; the 100 rules in 2010 was the second-highest. The 49 under Trump in 2017 was the lowest since these records be- gan, followed by 50 in 2003.

This is a good place to summarize the spe- cies of significant rules.514 For example, an economically significant rule is major, but a major one is not necessarily economically significant (so there are fewer economically significant rules than major ones). Both eco- nomically significant rules and major ones qualify as significant. Numbers of each over the past four years per various databases ap- pears in Table 12.

An object in the universe cannot be larger than the universe, but note the economically significant rule counts being larger than the major or significant count in some instances.

Table 11. Government Accountability Office Reports on Major Rules as Required by the Congressional Review Act, 2000–2019

 

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

Department of Agriculture

7

5

2

5

7

8

4

2

4

6

12

3

7

8

6

7

4

7

9

 

Department of Commerce

 

1

1

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

2

1

2

 

 

1

 

 

2

 

Department of Defense

1

 

1

2

2

1

 

 

 

4

4

6

 

 

1

 

 

2

3

 

Department of Education

6

 

3

2

1

2

5

4

2

5

6

2

1

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Department of Energy

 

2

4

8

2

6

3

1

5

4

7

3

3

 

 

 

1

1

3

3

Department of Health and Human Services

21

19

16

38

18

27

24

23

24

24

17

24

19

16

22

22

17

13

15

17

Department of Homeland Security

2

2

 

5

3

2

2

1

1

3

1

5

4

2

3

2

2

 

 

 

Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

 

1

2

1

 

 

 

2

1

1

2

 

 

1

1

 

 

1

2

Department of Justice

 

2

 

1

 

 

 

1

1

3

 

 

 

1

1

1

 

3

4

 

Department of Labor

2

1

2

8

1

3

3

3

2

6

1

2

3

3

1

1

 

2

3

5

Department of the Interior

3

5

3

6

6

6

6

7

6

7

7

10

5

6

6

8

7

7

8

9

Department of State

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

1

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Department of Transportation

1

1

 

4

3

3

3

2

2

5

6

8

3

1

3

5

4

6

3

 

Department of the Treasury

13

 

2

5

7

6

3

2

1

4

 

1

1

1

 

1

1

 

1

 

Department of Veterans Affairs

3

3

1

1

4

3

1

1

2

2

2

 

1

 

1

 

2

1

3

 

Achitectural Barriers Compliance Board

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

1

Commodity Futures Trading Commission

 

 

 

4

 

1

4

9

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

2

 

3

2

2

 

4

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency Oil and Gas Loan Board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emergency Steel Guarantee Loan Board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Environmental Protection Agency

 

1

2

7

8

2

3

5

6

8

3

9

2

8

3

7

3

1

4

20

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Acquisition Regulation

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Communications Commission

1

2

 

 

1

1

1

 

 

 

 

6

2

1

1

4

2

3

3

6

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

 

 

1

2

 

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Election Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

Federal Emergency Management Agency

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

3

2

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Housing Finance Agency

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Reserve System

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

 

3

6

6

2

 

 

 

1

 

1

 

1

Federal Trade Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

National Credit Union Administration

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Labor Relations Board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

1

2

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

2

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

Office of Management and Budget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

Office of Personnel Management

 

1

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

1

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Securities and Exchange Commission

8

5

1

10

6

5

5

3

8

9

7

7

5

3

4

2

5

2

2

5

Small Business Administration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

1

1

Social Security Administration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

2

1

 

 

 

 

1

TOTAL

74

55

49

119

77

82

81

68

80

100

84

95

60

56

56

66

50

51

70

77

 

Table 12. Number of Significant and Major Rules

 

 

Completed Economically Significant*

 

Major per GAO**

Major Per Unified Agenda***

 

 

Significant****

2016

Obama

83

119

96

486

2017

Trump

88

48

102

199

2018

Trump

35

54

43

108

2019

Trump

70

74

84

66

The basic relationship is economically sig- nificant ≥ major ≥ significant. There may be different explanations, such as calendar and fiscal year nonalignment, rules not being reported to GAO but being noted at OMB, different categorizations of independent agency rules in the databases, or differing treatment of budget/transfer rules. Greater clarity can be had with an executive order or legislation that clarifies nomenclature, recon- ciles record keeping across the various data- bases, and brings independent agencies fully in to review.515

Sticking with the GAO compilation, Presi- dent Barack Obama issued 691 major rules over eight years, compared with President George W. Bush’s 505 over eight years. (This presentation uses calendar years, so Bush’s eight years contain a couple of Bill Clinton’s presidential transition weeks at the top before his inauguration, whereas Obama’s first year would include the Bush administration’s final weeks.) President Bush averaged 63 major rules annually during his eight years in office. President Obama averaged 86, a 36 percent higher average annual output than that of Bush. Trump’s 40, 55, and 74 major rules be- tween 2017 and 2019, respectively, mean an average of 59 major rules annually. This is less than his two predecessors, even before consid- ering that some major rules are deregulatory.

Read Chapter 10: Liberate to Stimulate

Read Chapter 8: Analysis of the Regulatory Plan and Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations

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