Regulatory Agenda Published for Obama's Last Year

By Cheryl Bolen

May 18 — All the rules that are expected to be acted on in the remainder of the Obama administration are now published in the Spring 2016 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

The semiannual report is published in the spring and fall of each year, providing public notice of federal agencies' plans to review, propose or issue regulations. Although subject to change, the agenda lists actions that agencies are expected to take over the next 12 months, or in this case, the final year of this administration.

As of May 18, federal agencies had submitted a total of 133 regulations for review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Of those, the Department of Health and Human Services had the most, with 21 regulations pending.

Final Agenda in Fall

The complete Spring 2016 unified agenda lists regulations by agency.

The Obama administration is likely to publish a fall agenda, traditionally in November, although the new administration in 2017 may have additional or different regulatory priorities. It is also possible that new regulations from the Obama administration will be added to the fall agenda, although OIRA Administrator Howard Shelanski is trying to prevent any surprises (See previous story, 01/25/16).

Status Update

Sally Katzen, senior adviser at the Podesta Group and former OIRA administrator in the Clinton administration, said the president, or even OIRA, does not typically make many changes to the regulatory agenda.

Rather, much of the agenda is simply a status update of where a particular regulation is in the pipeline, including some items that are long-term, routine or required annually by statute, Katzen told Bloomberg BNA.

It is unclear how much this agenda will reveal which rules will be finalized in the next eight months. “It will shed a lot of light on it, but it won’t be dispositive,” she said.

One value of the agenda is that it gives some indication of whether certain rules are on a fast-track or not, Katzen said. Moreover, some work that is being done on future-looking rules—like drones or driverless cars—even if not completed this year, could be significant and likely will go forward regardless of who is president, she said.

Rule Disapproval Unlikely

Katzen also downplayed the Congressional Review Act as a driving factor in the timetable this year. The CRA gives the Congress 60 legislative days to pass legislation disapproving a rule.

“There are a few candidates that may well be plucked from the vine,” Katzen said. But the new Congress in January will have a lot to do, including confirming a new Cabinet and other senior officers, she said.

There also may be significant initiatives that the new president would like to pursue that are far more pressing than rescinding regulations from the Obama administration, Katzen said.

“The CRA is not cost-free in terms of the time and energies expended by members of the Senate,” Katzen said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at