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Trump Regulations: Federal Register Page Count Is Lowest In Quarter Century

Today, Friday, December 29, 2017, is the last federal workday of the year.

This presents an opportunity to round up all rules and regulations produced by agencies appearing in the calendar-year 2017 Federal Register

The calendar year concluded with 61,950 pages in the Federal Register this morning. Here’s the cover.

This is the lowest count since 1993’s 61,166 pages. That was Bill Clinton’s first year, and his own lowest-ever count.

A year ago, Obama set the all-time Federal Register page record with 95,894 pages.

Trump’s Federal Register is a 35 percent drop from Obama’s record, set last year.

Bush and Reagan had lower Federal Register page counts than Trump; but every president since has easily outstripped Trump.

Here’s the breakdown since the first Bush. Clearly in all years since 1993, presidents have produced more pages in the Register than Trump.

                                    Federal           Number

                                    Register          of

                        Year    Pages              Rules               POTUS

1989      50,501           4,714               Bush 1 years

1990      49,795           4,334

1991      57,973           4,416

1992      57,003           4,155                                      

1993      61,166           4,369               Clinton years

1994      64,914           4,867

1995      62,645           4,713

1996      64,591           4,937

1997      64,549           4,584

1998      68,571           4,899

1999      71,161           4,684

2000      74,258           4,313                                      

2001      64,438           4,132               Bush 2 years

2002      75,606           4,167

2003      71,269           4,148

2004      75,675           4,101

2005      73,870           3,975

2006      74,937           3,718

2007      72,090           3,595

2008      79,435           3,830                                      

2009      68,598           3,503               Obama years

2010      81,405           3,573

2011      81,247           3,807

2012      78,961           3,708

2013      79,311           3,659

2014      77,687           3,554

2015      80,260           3,410

2016      95,894           3,853                                      

                        2017      61,950           3,281               Trump

After the National Archives processes all the blank pages and skips in the 2017 Federal Register, Trump’s final count will ultimately be even lower.

Of course, the Federal Register may be a poor guide for regulation, but Washington doesn't go out of its way to honestly measure itself and disclose regulatory impact.

The “problem” of assessing magnitude is even worse this year, because many of Trump’s “rules” are rules written to get rid of rules.

The Number of Rules and Regulations

There has also been a major reduction in the number of rules and regulations under Trump.  

Today the Federal Register closed out with 3,281 final rules within its pages.

This is the lowest count since records began being kept in the mid-1970s. 

Back in the 1990s, rule counts were regularly over 4,000, as seen here. Even Obama’s personal high count of 3,853 was below such stratospheric levels.  Of course, some rules have more impact than others, and rules comprising fewer pages can have more effect than lengthy ones. Obama’s own lowest count was 3,410, but fewer of Obama’s rules would be expected to have been devoted to rollbacks of prior initiatives.

Even without congressional action on regulatory liberalization, Trump has made significant strides in reducing the pace of regulation. Rule counts and Federal Register pages are imperfect but useful gauges, and one hopes impel policymakers toward better measurements. As it stands, since a rule has to be written to get rid of a rule, the Federal Register and rule counts can both grow even in a deregulatory environment, unless Congress short-cuts the process with healthy reform legislation.