Biden administration releases updated regulatory agenda
Apart from Once An Obama-era glitch, federal agencies highlighted some regulatory priorities in the spring and fall editions of the Unified agenda federal regulatory and deregulatory actions since the early 1980s.
The Spring 2022 edition, just released (yes, agendas are often late), continues to flesh out Biden’s self-proclaimed “whole of government” regulatory activism.
The agenda describes a selection of recently finalized rules, as well as an incomplete overview of other notable rules in development. Elections and political motivations along with politics can affect prioritization and urgency and thus speed up or delay the development of certain rules. All this affects the content and volume of the Diary (you don’t see much of the printed editions anymore, but yes, you can get one).
In line with Biden’s “better America” spending goals and regulatory campaigns in several areasthe Regulatory Agenda is considered by the White House as “a means of sharing with the public how the themes of equity, prosperity and public health cut through everything we do to improve the lives of the American people.”
It is a change. The roots of the Agenda lie in the paperwork reduction, regulatory oversight and the alleged balance costs and benefits and regulatory moderation. During the Trump years, the OMB boasted that it had achieved Trump’s “one in two out” streamlining goals for the agency’s rules.
Back when the fall 2021 agenda emerged, we noted Biden’s contempt for regulatory streamlining and his view that the entire Trump agenda constituted “harmful policies and directives that threaten to thwart the ability of the federal government face … problems. Biden revoked Trump’s regulatory oversight apparatus in a series of Executive orders.
The result is that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget has transformed into a vehicle to move Biden forward initiatives forFighting discrimination in housing”, “Facing the climate crisis,” etc. Rollbacks of specific Trump regulatory initiatives remain pending in the spring schedule, such as the The pro-union measures of the Ministry of Labor involving overtime and prevailing Davis-Bacon wage requirements. New rules related to expensive infrastructure adoption of the bill also began to materialize in the Spring Agenda.
Unless an administration ostensibly requires it, Agencies’ regulatory activities are not limited to what they publish in the Agenda. For example, it is implausible that the Federal Communications Commission does not have proposed and final actions worth noting. sometimespresentation of more speculative longer-term rules is encouraged, sometimes not. Rules appearing in the Unified Agenda can sometimes persist for years. Biden’s own deadlines for some notable rules can slip, as noted by the American Action Forum. The agenda has never been comprehensive, rock-solid or reliable, which is of greater concern given Biden’s unprecedented incremental transformations of government into a promoter of regulation even as disclosure is eroded by him. The SEC, for example, claims to to be “led by two public policy objectives: continue to drive the efficiency of our capital markets and modernize our rules for today’s economy and technologies.” Rather, he is driven by Biden’s climate and woke agenda, and his desire to regulate cryptocurrencies is well known but understated.
Despite the whiplash, let’s look at where things stand. The Spring 2022 Program breaks down its sample of rules from over 60 federal departments, agencies and commissions as follows:
- Active actions: Pre-rule actions, proposed and final rules anticipated or prioritized in the near future;
- Completed actions: Actions carried out during the last six months or so; and
- Long term actions: Development of longer-term rules beyond a horizon 12.
The Spring 2022 unified program of regulatory and deregulatory actions find 67 federal agencies, departments and commissions floating 3,803 rules and regulations at the active (2673), completed (556) and long-term (574) stages. (That compares to 3,777 in fall 2021 and 3,959 in Biden’s spring edition a year ago).
Trump’s overall tally was comparable but with one big difference. Its final Fall 2020 pipeline, for example, contained 653 rules designated “deregulatory” for the purposes of its now-defunct “one-in, two-out” Executive Order 13771, for a lower “net”.
A handful of executive branch agencies account for most of the rules in the works. In the new spring 2022 program, the ministries of interior, treasury, transport, trade and health and social services are the most active. These first five, with 1,332 rules among them, represent 35% of the 3,803 rules in preparation.
In the Spring 2022 Agenda, 407 “active” stage rules appear for the first time (compared to 495 in the Fall 2021 edition and 610 a year ago). Some of them are spawned by Congress and its Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA). Among them are carbon sequestration, the use of scooters and other mobility devices in national parks, and “advanced drinking and driving prevention technology.” Notably, however, 76 completed items appear for the first time in Spring 2022, meaning previous iterations were deemed not worth mentioning. None of these Flash-Completed rules were “economically significant” or “major”, but 10 were deemed “otherwise significant”. Things can crop up from time to time on the population.
Another telling data point is that while the long-term rules were scrapped under Biden (maybe they were signed into law or maybe someone pressed the mute button), 38 of them appear for the first time (in addition to the 407 Assets already rated) including four qualified as “economically significant”. This term roughly means that the agencies estimate to have economic effects of at least $100 million; usually an increase, although attempts to cut costs were more common during the Trump era.
Steps should be taken to facilitate consistent early period analysis and erratic long-term period inventory, as both can obscure as well as reveal trends.
Continuing, of the 3,803 rules of the new Biden agenda, 294 are economically significant rules at different stages, compared to 295 last fall, and 297 a year ago. The breakdown is 36 of them recently completed, 220 active and 38 under long-term preparation. By comparison, Trump’s pandemic-stricken December 2022 final agenda contained 261 economically significant rules, 36 of which were deemed “deregulatory,” for a “net” of 225.
In addition to the expensive and economically significant subset, more than a thousand rules in each edition of the Diary over the past few years have been considered “other important”, regardless of the chair. In addition to all of this, some federal activities may not appear in a unified agenda, such as recent support for the Defense Production Act to demonstrate commitment to supply chain issues, or actions influenced by purchases, contract specifications and executive orders.
These point to the need to incorporate the regulatory effects of spending in the current era of “rebuilding” social regulation into maintaining surveillance.
Biden’s regulatory agendas promised and delivered activism. The OMB’s move from carrying out Trump’s now revoked “one-in, two-out” executive order, to praising the government’s own mandates and boasting about its advancement of progressive causes indicates that the OIRA may not be salvageable as a watchdog. This transformation and rise of social tutelage is a major issue that legislators need to address when addressing the continued abuse of seizures like the pandemic.
Tracking the reach of government will increasingly pose a challenge, as a progressive savior mentality cannot be helpful in the pursuit of regulatory oversight, mitigation, reduction and extinguishment of the excesses of the government.