Trump Inaccurately Claims Most Regulatory Cuts of Any President

By Cheryl Bolen

President Donald Trump is on track to cut more regulation—and to dramatically slow the growth of new regulation—than any president in modern history, but he hasn’t done so already.

Yet, on more than one occasion, Trump has boasted his administration has made more cuts in regulations than have actually been made.

“In the history of our country, no president, during their entire term, has cut more regulations than we’ve cut,” Trump told Republican lawmakers at the White House on Nov. 2. “We’ve cut that in 10 months, and we have a lot more to do.”

Because of the lengthy legal process that must be followed before eliminating a rule in whole or in part, the number of rules actually cut by the Trump administration is still relatively small, or under 30, according to most trackers.

By comparison, the retrospective review initiative conducted during the Obama administration resulted in 70 rules eliminated in whole or in part over a five-year period, for a cost savings of $37 billion.

Tracking Deregulation

Since the start of the Trump administration, federal agencies have been working to identify regulations that can be modified or eliminated to save costs, to meet the requirements of Executive Order 13,771.

Under this executive order, agencies must eliminate two existing rules for every new rule they issue. At the end of fiscal year 2017, OMB officials said 10 rules had been cut by agencies, but that final numbers were still coming in.

Dan Goldbeck, research analyst for regulatory policy at the American Action Forum, has tracked a total of 11 rules that have been modified or eliminated by agencies that have produced cost savings, including two that have been finalized since the end of the fiscal year.

In addition, there have been to date 15 rules repealed under the Congressional Review Act and signed by the president, for a total of 26 rules cut by Goldbeck’s measure.

Brookings New Tracker

Researchers at the Brookings Institution have launched a new project to track deregulation in the Trump administration, which provides a nuanced look at the rules being cut.

In addition to the 15 rules repealed under the CRA, Brookings found four rules that have been rescinded or withdrawn, four rules that have been partially eliminated, and nine rules that have been delayed.

The Brookings tracker, however, isn’t comprehensive and so it can’t be used to determine a percentage of rules that have been cut, said Philip Wallach, senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings.

“We think that those questions are just really hard to get at,” Wallach told Bloomberg Government.

Still Early Stages

Instead, the Brookings tracker is trying to get at the big question of whether the administration is doing a lot of high-saliency deregulating successfully, Wallach said.

The tracker includes the progress of rules through procedural stages, including litigation at the end, Wallach said. The most sensible way to think about where the administration is now is that it is still pretty early going, he said.

The president has set an ambitious agenda for doing a lot of deregulating, but marching through all the stages is a long haul, Wallach said.

Specific Percentage Difficult

While it is natural to look for a statistic that exactly summarizes what has happened, it is really hard to figure out what to pull in under the umbrella of deregulation, Wallach said.

Trump recently commented that “we’ve probably cut out about 48 percent, and we’re going to be quite a bit higher than that.”

More precisely, the Office of Management and Budget has said the number of economically significant regulations proposed by agencies in the spring regulatory agenda had dropped by about 50 percent since the fall.

“Probably it’s not sensible to hope for one big summary statistic eventually,” Wallach said. “I’m not sure even if you’re a really careful person you’re going to be able to design such a measure very convincingly.”

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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