When President Barack Obama was transitioning into the White House in 2009, his then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel urged President George W. Bush-controlled federal agencies to halt all pending regulations.
Ditto when President-elect Donald Trump won the election in November—Republican leaders sent the same kind of memo, and request, to the Obama administration.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, along with the 21 committee chairmen, wrote in a letter to Obama’s agencies:
“Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions — and, if appropriate, overturns them — pursuant to the Congressional Review Act.”
In a meeting last month with reporters, McCarthy cited Emanuel’s letter as precedent for their own.
Shortly after, the White House signaled it would not stop issuing regulations in the final weeks of the administration.
The move prompted a similar letter, this time from a group of Senators led by Wyoming Republicans John Barrasso and Mike Enzi. The senators wrote on December 2, “we have the opportunity to return to commonsense principles of regulation and curb unnecessary government interference in the private sector,” adding:
“In doing so, we will grow the economy, create jobs, and, above all, help the people who have been overlooked the past eight years. To this end, we respectfully request you honor the will of the American people and refrain from working on or issuing any new, non-emergency regulations while carrying out your remaining term in office.”
Yet, here we are at the end of the year, with Trump’s transition fully underway, and the Obama administration is still rolling out new rules.
A little more than a week following Election Day, the administration unveiled 527 new pages of regulations, breaking its own record for a single year.
On Monday, the administration finalized The Stream Protection Rule, which places restrictions on coal mining operations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed in a statement to reverse the regulations:
“When the new Congress convenes next month, I will also introduce a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn this egregious regulation and work with my colleagues to use every tool available to turn back this regulatory assault on coal country,”
And on Tuesday, Obama issued a complete ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic. Because Obama exercised his authority under the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, as opposed to a standard executive order, an incoming Trump administration will have difficulty reversing it.
However, Republicans have promised massive regulatory reforms in the new Congress. Under legislation such as the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, regulation with an economic impact of more than $100 million will require an up and down vote in both chambers.
“You’re gonna watch in the House, we will start out changing that structure,” McCarthy said last month. “The Article 1 — from the REINS Act, the midnight laws and others that you bring through — that yes, that we’ll have common ground and common sense.”