President Trump took a victory lap Thursday for his nearly four-year crusade of cutting Obama-era regulations on everything from farm ponds to light bulbs, a celebration carrying a warning that Democrat Joseph R. Biden would bury the president’s progress under an avalanche of new red tape.
A day after his administration finalized a rule speeding up environmental reviews of infrastructure projects, the president said he has been waging “the most dramatic regulatory relief campaign in American history.”
“We must never return to the days of soul-crushing regulation that ravaged our cities, devastated our workers, drained our vitality right out of our people and thoroughly crippled our nation’s prized competitive edge,” Mr. Trump said.
The president spoke on the South Lawn of the White House, flanked by red and blue pickup trucks to symbolize the Republican and Democratic parties. A giant crane labeled “Trump administration” lifted a stack of oversized weights from the bed of the red truck, while the blue truck still bore its weights in its bed.
Mr. Trump said Mr. Biden, who leads the president in national polls by double digits, would reinstate the burdens of red tape of the Obama administration and more.
“Our entire economy and our very way of life are threatened by Biden’s plans to transform our nation and subjugate our communities through the blunt force instrument of federal regulation at a level that you haven’t even seen yet,” Mr. Trump said. “They want to go many times what they put you under in the past.”
Mr. Trump came into office promising to cut two regulations for every new one created. Advisers say he is actually on a seven-to-one pace. Major actions have included reversing a 2015 Obama “Waters of the U.S.” regulation subjecting more farm and ranch land to federal oversight, repealing the Clean Power Plan restricting carbon emissions from power plants, and rolling back the Obama administration’s fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.
For the second time this week, Mr. Trump also took aim at the Obama administration’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, aimed at reducing discrimination in housing. Mr. Trump said he plans to take action next week, saying the rule — which he suspended in 2018 — would “totally destroy the beautiful suburbs.”
“The suburb destruction will end with us next week,” the president said, citing his plans “to protect the suburbs from being obliterated by Washington Democrats, by people on the far left that want to see the suburbs destroyed.”
Mr. Trump also said he plans executive action on immigration, health care and other priorities.
“It’s going to be an exciting eight weeks,” the president said.
White House Domestic Policy Adviser Brooke Rollins said Mr. Trump’s regulation cutting is benefitting lower-income people the most. The White House Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the average family is saving $3,100 per year.
“Regulations raise prices, hurting lower-income Americans who must spend a larger portion of their income on heavily regulated goods like transportation, like food and like healthcare,” she said.
With the president in the final six months of his term, Mr. Trump’s regulatory moves also become subject to the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which would allow Mr. Biden to undo Trump actions quickly with congressional approval. Mr. Trump used the CRA to overturn 17 Obama regulations in his first two years, using a wrinkle in the law to wipe out a much broader swath of his predecessors’ rules than any previous president.
Ms. Rollins said the administration isn’t taking any particular steps to address the potential for Mr. Biden to reverse the president’s actions.
“Ultimately, one of the great legacies of this president is really showing the American people … that lower taxes and less government is better for everyone, but it is especially best for those who’ve never really had a real chance,” she said. “To have seen that model adopted by a president that was unexpected, but is focused on real change in a short amount of time, and then he goes back to his [private life], is really encouraging and really inspiring. I think that we will be able to successfully tell that story. But no matter what happens, the change we will have made here will last beyond that time.”
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Mr. Biden’s energy agenda alone, including a return to the Paris Climate Accord, would wreck the U.S. economy with burdensome regulations and higher energy costs.
“He says ‘I’ll end fracking on federal lands,’ but then he says we’re going to end fossil fuels by 2035,” Mr. Kudlow told reporters. “That’s 15 years from now. That means no more natural gas. That would put a dagger in the heart of the economy, puts a dagger into job creation and puts a dagger into lower middle-class folks, because they were the biggest beneficiary of this energy [agenda].”
Biden campaign spokesman Matt Hill said Mr. Trump “has failed to deliver any real plan to create jobs and instead is cutting corners to once again ignore science, experts, and communities and reservations entitled to clean air, water, and environments.”
Critics say Mr. Trump is overstating the impact of his deregulations, in part because the administration almost always loses court challenges to its actions. More than 88% of the administration’s deregulatory efforts through this week were blocked in court or withdrawn after a lawsuit, according to the Institute for Policy Integrity, a nonpartisan think tank at the New York University School of Law.
Courts have frequently ruled that the administration violates the Administrative Procedures Act as it tries to reverse regulations. A federal court on Wednesday overturned an administration rule that sought to ease limits on venting and flaring of methane from natural gas on public lands.
District Judge Yvonne Rogers of the Northern District of California, an Obama appointee, said the Bureau of Land Management’s weakening of the Obama administration’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule included “myriad inadequacies” and that the agency “steamrolled” requirements for implementing a new rule. She said the Trump administration didn’t provide enough evidence about the impact with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.
“In its zeal, BLM simply engineered a process to ensure a preordained conclusion,” the judge wrote.
Nearly two dozen states led by California are suing the administration to block its implementation of the new, less stringent fuel-efficiency standard for cars.
The Trump campaign said Thursday that the federal government during the Obama administration’s eight years imposed $872 billion in new regulations on the U.S. economy, creating 583 million hours’ worth of paperwork to comply with.
Mr. Trump recited his administration’s achievements in cutting regulations, including reversing requirements for low-flow dishwashers and shower heads. The president, discussing showers, joked about his vanity.
“My hair, I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect,” he said to laughter.
He also highlighted the administration’s more than 700 actions to cut regulations quickly to build ventilators and other medical equipment during the coronavirus crisis.
“No administration has removed more red tape more quickly to rescue the economy and protect the health of our people,” he said.
One of the White House’s guests, rancher Jim Chilton of Arizona, praised the president for eliminating the 2015 “Waters of the U.S.” regulation.
“It has set us free. The heavy hand of government is no longer on our shoulders,” he said.