Well You Heard About Your Midnight Regulations

By October 31, 2008General

From a letter sent by a diverse coalition of think tanks, activists and lobbying groups urging the Bush Administration to forego “midnight regulations,” an excerpt:

As a coalition, we do not take a position on any particular rule but, rather, a principled stand on the proper conduct of rulemaking. Our coalition likely contains proponents and opponents of nearly every major regulation you would consider. We have different interests but share a conviction: for the next few months, you should avoid issuing all but the most urgent new regulations.

Agreed, as a matter of principle. Last-minute regs meant to “advance controversial policies while subverting transparency, rigor, and legitimacy in the rulemaking process” are objectionable. But the Administration asserts — with solid justification, seems to us — that it’s doing nothing of the sort and in fact has taken effort to ensure public input and transparency.

If work on a regulation has been under way for nearly two years — see the Family and Medical Leave Act discussion — should everything just come to an end now, arbitrarily? Is Halloween the drop-dead date? Or maybe next Wednesday, the day after the election, because the incoming Administration should enjoy a de facto veto? Or perhaps the first Sunday of Advent because, well, it’s Christmas time and people are busy?

We detect a slippery slope. If the Administration calls it quits now, the November deadline will become a July deadline soon enough. Eventually some activists will demand that future Administrations take no action at all in their final year in office — that is, they will demand it of executive branch officials who might favor deregulation or at least be skeptical of an expanded regulatory state. The more liberal, pro-regulation, economically intrusive Administrations will get a pass from some of those now raising objections.

So far, the Administration has made a much compelling argument about its careful, coherent and transparent approach toward the regulatory process than have groups like OMB Watch, who really just dislike the substance of the regulations under consideration. Behind their attack against process is the usual old desire for more government control of the private sector.

The signers of the letter, which include some solid pro-market advocates, follow. We hope they’re not being played.

Eli Lehrer, Senior Fellow, The Competitive Enterprise Institute
Steve Pociask Chief Economist, American Consumer Institute
Robert Dewey, Vice President, Government Relations and External Affairs, Defenders of Wildlife
Terrence Scanlon, Chairman & President, Capital Research Center
Adam Kolton Sr. Director, Congressional & Federal Affairs, National Wildlife Federation
Wayne Brough, Ph.D., Vice President for Research & Chief Economist, FreedomWorks
David Jenkins, Government Affairs Director, Republicans for Environmental Protection
Marcia Aronoff, Senior Vice President for Programs, Environmental Defense Fund

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