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Strengthening Executive Branch Review of Federal Regulations

This week marks the due date of public comments on the 2014 edition of the Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulation

Unable to resist the urge, we filed comments: The Federal Office of No: Enhancing the Executive Branch Role in Challenging Federal Regulation.

Despite this Office of Management and Budget report’s being the federal government’s only picture of itself with respect to regulatory benefits and costs, just seven rules in the document featured both benefit and cost analysis.

Yes, seven rules, in an era in which dozens of departments and agencies issue over 3,500 rules and regulations every year.

Independent agencies like those implementing the Dodd-Frank financial law (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission) get a pass.

Agency guidance documents, memoranda, bulletins and notices also get no review, and were never even subject to the Administrative Procedure Act process that governs ordinary regulation.

There are plenty avenues for making government bigger. So it makes one wonder, what if the president used the “pen and phone” to shrink government rather than grow it?

Granted, reining in regulation is the duty of Congress, since it has over-delegated massive amounts of power to bureaucracies and unelected bureaucrats.

Bills in the 113th Congress to address excess regulation included House passage of regulatory reforms such as the ALERRT Act (Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency) and the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny). But these were not met with Senate action.

Unsurprisingly, president Barack Obama opposes both measures, so Senate action wouldn’t have mattered. The bi-partisan SCRUB Act (Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome) to institute a commission to eliminate outdated regulations is the only bipartisan measure, and it didn’t move either.

Clearly, Congress is not going to act on reforming regulation in the near term, and the president is interested solely in using his metaphorical pen and phone to expand Washington’s reach, not to roll it back.

But it must be said that the pen and phone can expand liberty, not just grow government. Past presidents have done so. With that bias in mind, CEI’s filing to OMB reviews the state of central OMB review of federal regulation and concludes that, were he inclined, the president and executive offices could take numerous to better supervise federal regulation and boost the economy and fairness in the process. Among these: 

  • The president should implement a regulatory reprieve or moratorium;
  • The president should strengthen and enforce existing executive orders on regulation;
  • The president should schedule ongoing reviews of regulations;
  • The president should reduce dollar thresholds that trigger preparation of Regulatory Impact Analyses;
  • The president should issue an executive order to allow for review of all agency issuances, not just rules; 
  • The president should critique agency benefit claims and block gratuitous actions;
  • The president should compile an annual Regulatory Transparency Report Card;
  • The president should separately report on Economic, Health & Safety, and Environmental regulations;
  • The president should minimize indirect costs of regulations; and
  • The president should recommend rules for revision or repeal.