Critics see hole in Trump touting rollbacks

By Maxine Joselow | 12/15/2017 06:58 AM EST

President Trump spoke yesterday on regulatory reform efforts.

President Trump spoke yesterday on regulatory reform efforts. White House/YouTube

President Trump yesterday touted his administration’s progress in killing, freezing or delaying hundreds of regulations, but critics say the enthusiasm may be overblown.

In announcing his second regulatory plan, the president said his Cabinet has rolled back 22 rules for every new one, far exceeding his original two-for-one goal (E&E News PM, Dec. 14).

"We beat our goal by a lot," he said during a White House speech. "Instead of adding costs, for the first time in decades we achieved regulatory savings. We blew our target out of the water."


Regulatory policy experts, however, cast doubt on the accuracy of these claims.

The 22-for-1 metric includes rules that were withdrawn before agencies even issued them, said James Goodwin, senior policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform.

Unlike repealing an existing rule, withdrawing an already-proposed action doesn’t lead to any cost savings, Goodwin said yesterday.

"They’re taking credit for rules that they withdrew from the rulemaking pipeline," he said. "That doesn’t really have a meaningful impact. If something’s not on the books, then it doesn’t really have an impact."

Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, echoed these concerns. "There were a lot of fake figures that were cited," he said.

"I’m sure he’s including regulations that were withdrawn. They weren’t in effect," said Narang. "There are no cost savings associated with withdrawn regulations."

The Trump administration’s regulatory czar confirmed at a press briefing yesterday that withdrawn rules were included in the official tally.

Neomi Rao, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, told the reporters the administration had completed 67 deregulatory actions and three regulatory actions, resulting in $8.1 billion in cost savings.

The 67 deregulatory actions "include other regulatory actions such as the withdrawal of guidance documents or the reduction of paperwork," Rao said. "So some of them are withdrawn … and some are just delayed."

Asked for more details, Rao said she believes the 67 deregulatory actions includes 12 of the 14 rules rescinded using the Congressional Review Act (E&E Daily, May 12).

After his remarks, the president cut a symbolic piece of red tape. The White House also put up stacks of papers representing the scope of federal regulations in the 1960s compared with today.

"I think returning to 1960 levels would likely require legislation because there are a number of regulations that are based on statutory requirement," Rao said. "I don’t know what the percentage of those would be. But I think that would certainly require legislation."