Donald Trump’s Year In Regulation, 2020

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Today, Thursday, December 31, is the last federal workday of 2020.

This presents the opportunity to review the heft of the Federal Register and its roundup of all the rules and regulations produced by agencies in this bookend year of Donald Trump’s well-known effort to streamline the bureaucracy.

At year-end 2020, how is President Donald Trump’s regulatory reform project going? We do know already that for fiscal year 2020 that ended back on September 30, the president’s overarching “one-in, two-out” directive to agencies was being met in technical terms, even in this year of pandemic.

Still, though, the Federal Register page count ballooned 23 percent in 2020 over 2019’s count. The calendar year concluded with 87,352 pages in the Federal Register this morning. Here’s the December 31, 2020 cover.

This is second-highest count of all time.

The count’s unadjusted; the National Archives will eventually subtract a percentage of skips and blanks and post a final tally. but it won’t change the big picture all that much.

There were 70,938 pages in 2019, 67,225 in 2018 and “only” 61,308 pages in 2017, which had been the lowest count in a quarter-century (since 61,166 pages under Bill Clinton in 1993). The Federal Register has obviously been leaping since then.

These trends can be seen in the table below. Notably, former President Obama set the all-time record with 95,894 Federal Register pagesin 2016. Trump’s first year represented a 35 percent drop from that height. But now he’s the big number two.

Trump’s new count gets him well above Obama’s non-record years and certainly well beyond those of Clinton and Bush.

So what’s going on here? Deep-diving will tell, but for one thing, it happens to be the case that removing rules requires writing new rules under the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act’s public notice-and-comment mechanism. Where some early Trump moves on one-in, two-out could be done with executive action, writing rules in the Register is needed to maintain the momentum.

So paradoxically, even the attempt to deregulate and remove what came over many decades before will grow the Federal Register.

It is also the case that many rules and guidances have been issued in 2020 relating to the Covid-19 response that would not otherwise have been part of the picture. For example, the Small Business Administration issued 25 so-called “economically significant” rules pertaining to the Paycheck Protection Program created under the coronavirus CARES Act.

Read the full article at Forbes.