The Obama administration is pushing back against critics who have accused the president of unleashing a “regulatory tsunami” against the business community.
In a long-delayed report from the White House Office of Management and Budget, released just before the long holiday weekend, a senior administration official, speaking “on background,” said the list of new regulations for 2013 is actually shorter than it was in 2011 and 2012.
“This 2012 agenda makes clear that there is no ‘regulatory tsunami’ coming from this administration,” the source said. “It actually includes slightly fewer economically significant active rulemakings from executive agencies than the previous two agendas.”
The White House Office of Management and Budget is required by law to publish reports twice a year on the proposed regulations that federal agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board and Environmental Protection Agency are considering.
But the Obama administration skipped the spring report that usually comes out in April, and released the fall report two months late, just days before Christmas and in the middle of “fiscal cliff” negotiations, which some suggest was a move designed to bury the report.
In October, when the Obama administration had yet to turn in either report, known as the Unified Agenda, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. John Kline, called the president out on the delays.
“For some reason, they’re just not telling us — the American people, businesses, Congress — what’s on the agenda, what’s coming up,” said Mr. Kline, Minnesota Republican. “It’s very troubling.”
Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, last year predicted a “regulatory tsunami” if the president won re-election.
Some House Republicans and their allies in the business community speculated the Obama administration delayed the report until after the election for political purposes.
In his background comments on the report, the administration official pointed out that just because a proposed rule makes the report doesn’t mean the agency will go through with it. The rules must undergo “serious scrutiny” before that happens. In fact, in 2012, only 43 of the 132 economically significant rules that were in the last agenda have been finalized.
A proposed rule is considered economically significant if it would have a financial impact of at least $100 million on the economy.
“It often includes a number of rules that are not issued in the following year and other rules that may not be issued at all,” the source said.
But Mr. Kline called the delay in issuing the report a “flagrant violation.”
“President Obama said this would be the most transparent government in history,” Mr. Kline said in an interview about the report back in October. “Instead, we’ve got a repeated pattern of contempt for the law, bypassing the law.”
“It’s very frustrating for all of us in Congress and for the American people that this administration has chosen to just disregard the law and, in many cases, the Constitution, and just do what it chooses to do,” he added. “It’s happening everywhere, we can’t get answers on Fast and Furious, we can’t get answers on Benghazi, we can’t get answers anywhere.”
The list includes 68 proposed rules by the Department of Labor, covering issues ranging from pension-benefit statements to blood-borne pathogens to occupational exposure to Beryllium.
In September, a National Economic Research Associates report projected loss of 887,000 jobs annually from the administration’s regulatory agenda. The international economic firm said the coal industry would be hit hard, and the job losses would continue through 2034.