Long Before Midnight, Regulatory Stepping Down

By September 9, 2008General

From the White House press briefing, September 4th, with spokeswoman Dana Perino:

Q At the end of the Clinton administration, the White House was criticized for putting out a lot of so-called midnight regulation, and this May, Josh Bolten put out a memo instructing federal agencies not to do that. Yet have they — has the White House reversed its policy? Because several federal agencies have proposed rules since the cut-off date.

MS. PERINO: I’ll go back and look at the memo, but I think that all the agencies are complying with what Josh asked for. And I think what he was wanting is, one, good government so that you weren’t rushing things through at the last minute. And to my knowledge, the agencies that have put forward proposed regulations have done so in a timely fashion and in a way that they can get sufficient public comment so that they meet the obligations and laws of this country.

The memo in question came from Chief of Staff Bolten on May 9th (a copy is here), setting the deadline for new regs on June 1, as reported in The New York Times in “Administration Moves to Avert a Late Rules Rush” and a Bloomberg column by Cyndi Skrzycki, “Bush Aims to Stop Midnight Surge of New Rules.”

The Clinton Administration set a record with its last-minute “Midnight regulations,” sharply criticized by Susan Dudley when she was at the Mercatus Center; she now heads the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB, so actions match rhetoric match philosophy. Good.

As the Administration argues, this really is good government. Regulations are given full and fair scrutiny, those to be regulated aren’t hit with new and expensive surprises, and the next Administration doesn’t have to spend its first six months undoing all the mischief and defusing all the mines left over from its predecessor.

But, you can just bet the next time America is blessed with Administration that embraces the expansion of the regulatory state, Executive Branch officials will feel no such compunction. The scale only tilts one way.

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