President rolling back federal rules at record rate

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has embarked on the most aggressive campaign against US government regulations in a generation, joining Republican lawmakers to roll back rules already on the books and limit the ability of federal regulators to impose new ones.

After just a few weeks in office, the new administration is targeting Obama-era policies, using both legislative and executive tactics.

The fallout is already rippling across the federal bureaucracy and throughout the economy, affecting how dentists dispose of mercury fillings, how schools meet the needs of poor and disabled students, and whether companies reject mineral purchases from conflict zones, such as in Congo where armed groups accused of massive human rights violations profit from their trade.

The campaign has alarmed labour unions, public safety advocates and environmental activists, who fear losing regulations that have been in place for years, along with relatively new federal mandates. But business groups are thrilled, saying Mr Trump is responding to longstanding complaints that a profusion of federal regulations unnecessarily increases costs and hampers their ability to create jobs.

Under Mr Trump, "there's great optimism that all of them will be addressed", said Ms Rosario Palmieri, vice-president for labour, legal and regulatory policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.

Mr Trump and congressional Republicans are working to strip rules away at an unprecedented rate. One of the most powerful levers is the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers the power to nullify any regulation within 60 days of enactment. Before Mr Trump took office, the Act had been successfully used only once, to overturn a Clinton administration ergonomics rule in 2001. So far this year, the House has moved to nullify eight new rules and is considering dozens more.

A more extensive assault on government rules is likely. On Jan 30, Mr Trump signed an executive order that requires agencies to offset the cost of every significant new rule by eliminating existing rules or making them less onerous. That sets a more stringent standard than recent Republican administrations have tried, experts on regulation said, leaving a slew of Obama-era rules in limbo.

Meanwhile, the Trump White House is also employing an executive tactic that dates to the Reagan administration: issuing a 60-day freeze on new regulations.

The tactic is a mainstay of new administrations. Mr George W. Bush delayed 90 Clinton-era rules, and Mr Barack Obama delayed, altered or rescinded more than two dozen of Mr Bush's actions. Within a week of Mr Trump's inauguration, the new administration withdrew 24 significant rules.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'President rolling back federal rules at record rate'. Print Edition | Subscribe