Trump Administration Cuts New Rulemaking by 75 Percent

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By Cheryl Bolen

President Donald Trump boasted in the early days of his presidency that he would cut regulations by 75 percent—and by one measure he appears to be doing exactly that.

The number of new rulemakings proposed by federal agencies in the first 10 months of the Trump administration is down almost 75 percent, compared to comparable periods during Presidents George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations, new research shows.

Agencies submitted 250 significant final rules to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the first 10 months of the Bush administration, compared with 280 rules during the same period in the Obama administration, the research shows. Agencies in the Trump administration have submitted just 72 final rules to OIRA.

That translates into a 71 percent decline in final rules submitted to OIRA during the Trump administration, compared to the Bush administration rules and a 74 percent reduction compared with the Obama administration. The figures do not reflect reductions in regulations already on the books.

Regulatory Activity Plummets

Curtis Copeland, a long-time researcher for the Congressional Research Service and Government Accountability Office, now retired, used publicly available government data for the research, which he provided to Bloomberg Government.

In addition to final rules, the number of proposals and notices submitted to OIRA have dropped significantly. In total, agencies in the Bush administration submitted 465 regulatory actions, compared to 547 in the Obama administration and just 172 by agencies in the Trump administration.

This is a 68.5 percent drop in regulatory activity by the Trump administration, compared to Obama administration activity.

There are several possible reasons for the decline in new rulemakings, including Executive Order 13,771 signed by Trump in January that requires agencies to eliminate two existing rules for each new rule they issue, as well as offset the cost of the new rule.

In addition, the White House has been slow to nominate, and the Senate has been slow to confirm, many agency heads and deputy secretaries, who must make the decisions about which rulemakings to pursue.

Administrative Rules on Par

But this trend stops when it comes to non-significant or largely administrative rules, the research shows. Looking at final rules published in the Federal Register, all three administrations are largely on par.

Final rules published in the first 10 months of the Bush administration totaled 3,503, compared to 2,887 in the Obama administration, and 2,734 in the Trump administration.

This roughly 5 percent decrease in the number of final rules published compared to the Obama administration is largely explained by the almost equal numbers of administrative rules such as air-worthiness directives, drawbridge opening times and fishing zones.

The Obama administration published 2,612 non-significant rules, compared to 2,600 such rules by the Trump administration in the same time period.

Fewer Major Rules

Notably different between the Trump and Obama administrations is the number of significant final rules published in the Federal Register. Significant rules are generally those with an economic impact of $100 million or more annually, are in conflict with other agency missions, or raise novel legal or policy issues.

The Obama administration published 275 significant final rules in its first 10 months, compared to 134 significant final rules during the same period in the Trump administration, a decrease of 51 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com

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