Congressional Republican leaders are starting to plan for the end of what they hope is President Obama’s only term in office. House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell anticipate the administration will hand down a rash of liberal regulations in its final months.
Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell sent a letter to the president on Wednesday asking him to uphold his transparency pledge by not issuing “midnight regulations” after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. This phrase refers to rules and guidance made during the last months of a presidency.
The GOP leaders are most worried about “economically significant” rules, which affect the economy by at least $100 million, and the Obama White House record of using the regulatory process to implement controversial policies contrary to the will of Congress and the people. “We are deeply concerned about the effect these regulations are having on economic growth and job creation in the country,” they wrote. “Small businesses in particular are suffering because of these rules.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the president’s record, claiming, “The net benefits of regulations issued through the third fiscal year of the Obama administration have exceeded $91 billion … which is over 25 times the net benefits through the third fiscal year of the previous administration.” This spin comes by leaving out independent agency regulations, Dodd-Frank implementation and National Labor Relations Board rules.
The Obama administration has acted on 774 economically significant rules in its first three years, compared to 470 in the Bush administration. According to research from the American Action Forum, the Obama administration has imposed more than $236 billion in regulatory costs in just the last two years.
In the next couple weeks, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is expected to pass guidance that will prevent employers from conducting criminal background and credit checks on employees. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget last week blasting the way this decision was being made behind closed doors, before anyone has seen the actual text of the proposal. An EEOC spokesman responded that the agency has held public meetings and solicited input from stakeholders.
The Chamber also protested the economic consequences of EEOC action. “Employers are concerned that the anticipated guidance will remove or significantly limit the use of two important tools that employers use in hiring and related decisions,” the letter said. “The impact could be significant both in terms of costs but also in terms of increased exposure and risk to coworkers, customers and clients, and the public.”
This change would claim authority under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as if it’s discrimination not to want a deadbeat on the payroll or a serial killer at the water cooler.
Republicans are right to be on their guard against sneaky last-minute rulings that could mean considerable hardship for a struggling economy. The administration ought to respect the process and not try to sneak in controversial policies should voters decide on change in November.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.