At year-end 2014, the Federal Register stands at 78,978 pages, the fifth-highest count ever.
Of the six record-high tallies, five are Obama’s as the chart nearby shows. The pen and phone have been active.
Among those pages were 3,541 final rules and regulations. Since 1995, rules have never dipped below 3,500 annually and often exceeded 4,000, especially during the 1990s.
Of the 3,541 final rules, 659 are expected to have an impact on small businesses.
Another 2,375 proposed rules were issued in 2014 and are under consideration. The new Congress will have an opportunity to consider resolutions of disapproval of controversial ones under the Congressional Review Act; however the needed reports on major rules for Congress to do its job here have not been forthcoming.
The solution for over-regulation is requiring congressional approval of, not opportunity to disapprove, big rules. Reintroducing the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) and passing it in the Senate would address the matter. When Obama vetoes it, he can be asked why he thinks the unelected should make our law. (REINS is mis-named: the root of the problem is Congress’ over-delegation of power, and its toleration of the resultant abuse.)
Agency rules and regulations, however, are not the only means of non-congressional lawmaking.
President Obama has become famous for doing things via his “pen and phone” rather than implementing the laws Congress passes, the presidential role established by the Constitution. During 2104, Obama issued 34 Executive Orders (several of them merely corrections of prior misprints).
However, as I’d noted in a July Forbes column called “Despotism-Lite? The Obama Administration's Rule By Memo,” Executive orders are not Obama’s primary pen and phone medium—presidential “memoranda” are. He has issued 25 executive memoranda in 2014.
Each memo “hereby directs” someone in the federal apparatus to implement new controls and larger government without Congress having a say.
In 2014 alone, Obama’s memos create a dubious new financial instrument and implement new positive rights regarding work hours and employment preference, among much more. A December 2014 USA Today story notes Obama has used memos more than previous presidents. I break down number of memos by year, since 2000, here.
Agency guidance documents are another form of such “regulatory dark matter,” and requiring them to undergo scrutiny, including Administrative Procedure Act formalities will be another task of the new 114th Congress. No one even knows where to find all the agency “guidance” that’s out there.
I compile a weekly roundup the year's proposed and final rules, executive orders, memoranda and other information on a daily basis here on our Ten Thousand Commandments page.