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Obama’s 2015 Report to Congress on Federal Regulations Is MIA

The federal government’s only report that discloses overall costs and benefits of federal regulations is overdue. This is 2015, and it’s almost August. Where is the 2015 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations in this “most transparent administration in history”?

Like prior annual reports, it would give us a 10-year look back, in this instance covering October 1, 2004 to September 30 2014, and detail on the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014. On June 15, we did get the final 2014 Report, which covered rules from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013 (the period ending nearly two years ago).

This is the third latest the Draft Report has ever been. It is MIA as of July 21. The chart below shows the month, and day of the month if available, when the Draft Report to Congress has appeared since 2002. The report has appeared most frequently in March, and usually by April at the latest.

 

Jan

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

2002

 

 

Mar 28

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003

 

Feb 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

 

Feb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005

 

 

Mar 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

2006

 

 

 

April

 

 

 

 

 

2007

 

 

Mar 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 15

2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sept 21

2010

 

 

 

Apr 13

 

 

 

 

 

2011

 

 

March

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

 

 

March

 

 

 

 

 

 

2013

 

 

 

April

 

 

 

 

 

2014

 

 

 

 

May

 

 

 

 

2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIA?

 

 

This delay comes amid recent concerns that some in Congress expect President Obama to push through a surge of “midnight regulations” as his second term draws to a close.

The two prior latest dates the draft report issued are interesting.

The first was during George W. Bush’s final year of 2008. This lateness could be due to the aforementioned “midnight regulations” phenomenon—which is bipartisan; presidents want to push their stuff through as their term ends—but the rules in Bush’s report are from an earlier fiscal year, so a real reason for delay isn’t clear.

During Obama’s first year (2009), the Draft Report didn’t appear until September, even later in the month than under Bush. Obama’s delay back then could partly be explained by the freeze he issued on Bush’s pending regulations on his first day in office, which was not a bad thing. Rules issue at the rate of over 3,500 annually, but are rarely sunsetted or phased out.

But, for a going concern administration, it’s unheard of for the Draft Report to Congress to be as late as it is now.

Surely when a presidential administration is in midstream and no crisis atmosphere prevails, the public and Congress should get more timely reports on both regulatory priorities (the administration is often late with its Unified Agenda regulatory planning documents, too) and the costs of those most recently issued, as the Draft Report reveals. As the chart makes clear, we always have had more timely reports before.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has lost no opportunity to tout the alleged benefits its regulations even as it foot-drags when it comes to reporting about them.

GovExec dutifully noted about the 2014 Draft Report: “The latest White House budget office estimate on the impact of federal regulations points firmly toward a verdict that benefits outweigh costs.”

In the final 2014 Report, the administration maintained that the period’s rules bestowed benefits of up to $81.4 billion, noting that costs were about $3 billion.

But this claim is made on the basis of only seven rules featuring cost-benefit analysis during the 2014 fiscal year, out of thousands of rules that are issued by agencies each year. This is not credible, and obscures more than it reveals about the regulatory enterprise.

One can hope that the 2015 Draft Report will cover more ground. When we get it.