- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2018

The administration has cut back on the number of new regulations the government issues, but hasn’t been able to reverse the $2 trillion drag all of the existing regulations put on the economy, according to a report released Thursday that says President Trump has yet to tame the bureaucracy.

Mr. Trump finalized 3,281 new rules last year — 15 percent less than 2016, and down dramatically from the 1990s and early 2000s, when 4,000 per year was normal, said the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

When measured by total pages in the Federal Register, which publishes regulations, Mr. Trump cut the number from a record 95,894 in President Obama’s last year to just 61,308 last year. It was the lowest count since 1993.

But that does little to tame the bite of current regulations, which the CEI said sapped $1.9 trillion from the economy in 2017, or about the same as the year before.

The government itself also spent $66 billion to enforce all its own regulations in 2017 — up slightly from the $63 billion at the tail end of the Obama administration, the report said.

“Holding flat is the big ‘progress,’” said Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., the author of the CEI’s 2018 “Ten Thousand Commandments” report on federal regulations.

Mr. Trump took office promising to cut two regulations for every new one he announced. Mr Crews said that has happened to an extent, but the resulting $600 million in estimated annual savings was “almost a rounding error.”

Mr. Crews said Congress needs to step in if there’s to be any permanent reining in of the bureaucracy.

“When all is said and done, the administrative state cannot be said to have fundamentally changed under Trump,” he wrote in the report.

Mr. Trump still touts his progress.

“So I’m here, 15, 16 months, and we’ve cut more regulations than any president, whether it’s four years, eight years, or in one case, 16 years,” the president said earlier this week. “Nobody is even close.”

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney also defended the administration’s deregulatory push this week, saying they were approaching a 22-to-1 ratio at one point in responding to the executive order requiring the elimination of two regulations for every new one that’s introduced.

“We’re exceeding those targets, without question,” he said.

All told, the Trump administration has withdrawn or delayed 1,579 Obama-era rules that were in the pipeline but not yet finalized, the report said.

But Mr. Crews pointed out that Mr. Trump’s push to undo some major regulations, like the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States or Clean Power Plan rules, will take years, and such changes wouldn’t yet be reflected in the early report card.

Federal agencies also issued 34 rules for every law passed by Congress in 2017 — up from 18 in 2016 and higher than the average of 28 over the past decade.

The growth of the so-called “administrative state” has become a major topic among conservative legal circles, with some advocates arguing that federal courts should steer more regulatory power back to Congress.

Just prior to Mr. Trump’s inauguration last year, the House passed the REINS Act that would require Congress to vote on any major rules before they take effect, but the legislation hasn’t gone anywhere in the Senate.

Instead, Congress has relied on the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back 15 Obama-era rules, and the Senate this week voted to undo another one tied to discriminatory practices in auto loans.

“Republicans are chopping away at the tangled mess of regulations the last administration left behind,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Democrats have tried to throw up roadblocks where they can, saying the deregulatory push is less about streamlining government and more about protecting special interests, notably in the financial sector.

Liberal activists also said the most recent push on auto loans was particularly “dangerous” because it targeted non-binding “guidance” documents from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and potentially opens the door for more far-reaching deregulatory moves.

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