Obama’s New Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations Shows Big Rules Are Growing

In the just-released Spring 2014 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations, published twice a year by the Office of Management and Budget, federal departments and agencies have 3,348 rules in the pipeline.

These are broken up into Active (mostly proposed and final rules in the works), Recently Completed, and Long-Term rules as follows:

Spring Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (All Rules)
Active: 2,389
Completed: 518
Long-term: 441
TOTAL: 3,348

This is up a tad from the pipeline count in the Fall 2013, which was 3305, as detailed here. The pipeline regularly stood above 4,000 in decades prior; the drop derives substantially from changes in OMB reporting policy, which in my view reduce transparency, as I explained in “Big Sexy Holiday Fun With the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations.”

Still, the number of economically significant rules in the Unified Agenda pipeline, those projected to impact the economy by at least $100 million annually (usually upward, but occasionally downward) rose from the Fall 2013 report’s 191 rules to 197, as follows:

Spring Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations (Economically Significant Rules)
Active: 129
Completed: 38
Long-term: 30
TOTAL: 197

This annual flow of larger-scale rules has been considerably higher under Obama than it was under President Bush, as may be seen separately in Figure 19 of the 2014 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments, which depicts the Fall Agenda counts going back to 2001.

More interesting for present purposes is the “Completed” component of these economically significant rules. As the chart nearby shows (click to enlarge it), not counting the year 2001 and Bush’s final year, this category of rules is now higher under President Barack Obama than it has been at any time since 1996.

Completed ES rules in the Spring and Fall Unified Agendas

Obama’s total count of rules last year (from Spring and Fall Agendas) was 51, which happened to be his lowest count. The 38 shown as “Completed” in the new Spring Agenda is the highest of any Spring agenda over the entire time frame depicted, (again) not counting 2001.

It can be seen that when the Fall Agenda comes out later this year, another record-level year of completed, economically significant rules is assured. I don’t think we can blame Bush, but I reckon it’s worth a shot.

Let’s see; Bush’s first six years brought 287 completed economically significant rules; Obama’s first six years have brought 376, and we’re not done with the sixth year yet.

So won’t work. And, alas, this is not even counting the “pen” and “phone” rulemaking happening off the books.