Draining Washington of Science and Talent

by Laurie Ristino | September 20, 2018

Donald Trump has, in a sense, made good on his promise to "drain" Washington, D.C. – but not in the way many people probably thought he would. The exodus from our nation's capital has been made up of the scientists, diplomats, and policy experts that a democracy needs to function, not the high-powered, special interest lobbyists voters likely had in mind. Meanwhile, a raft of grifters has gleefully taken a temporary perch in the executive branch. The ensuing debacles, scandals, and assaults on safeguards and agencies have made it stunningly clear how critical a competent, public interest-focused executive branch is to our country's well-being.

One recent example of Trump's war on federal agencies is Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue's surprise announcement last month that he planned to reorganize the Economic Research Service (ERS), an independent economic research agency. Perdue's announcement was a shock to ERS employees, who were told about the plan a mere hour before the proposal was made public. The administration's purported rationale, met with disbelief by ERS economists, is to better align ERS with the needs of the department and save money. However, the reality is that the proposed changes are a one-two punch to undermine the independence and capacity of the agency.

First, under the plan, ERS will report to the Office of the Chief Economist, removing a firewall between the ERS and political appointees. Second, ...

CPR Member Scholars and Staff Express Support for Sen. Warren's Anti-Corruption Bill

by James Goodwin | September 06, 2018
Today, 18 CPR Member Scholars and staff sent a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressing their support for her recently introduced bill, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, in particular its provisions to reform the regulatory system so that it works for all Americans. These provisions are just one component of the bill’s comprehensive effort aimed at restoring the principles of government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” to our policymaking institutions by ridding them of ...

From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery

by Sidney Shapiro | September 05, 2018
This is the first in a series of posts from CPR's new From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report and provides a preview of the preface and executive summary. From September 6-26, CPR will post a new chapter from the report each weekday on CPRBlog. The full report, including a downloadable PDF, will also be available on CPR's website. Preface: An Ounce of Prevention The story is now familiar. An area of the United States is battered by ...

The Socratic Method: CPR Legal Scholars Test Kavanaugh

by Matt Shudtz | September 04, 2018
Today, D.C. Circuit Court Judge and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh begins his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite the disturbing lack of transparency around his service to the country during the George W. Bush administration, the show will go on. We asked CPR's Member Scholars and staff what they would ask Judge Kavanaugh if they had the opportunity. Here are some highlights: You Can't Put a Price on Everything Ask a parent what they would pay to ...

The Hill Op-Ed: Brett Kavanaugh's Opportunistic Corner Cutting

by Rena Steinzor | August 30, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Tens of thousands of thoughtful — and not so thoughtful — words have been written about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s substantive positions on issues the court will face. At least one question has not been addressed, however: Is Judge Brett Kavanaugh so ideological about certain topics that he veers toward sloppiness? As a law professor, I spend a lot of time around first-year law students, introducing them to the professional standards that ...

American Prospect Commentary: Judge Kavanaugh’s Deregulatory Agenda

by Thomas McGarity | July 30, 2018
This commentary was originally published by The American Prospect.  Most of us take for granted the federal regulations that make our air cleaner, our drinking water purer, our food, highways, and workplaces safer, and our economic transactions less vulnerable to fraud and abuse. And few of us realize the extent to which those protections are subject to reversal by federal courts applying legal principles prescribed by the Supreme Court. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be ...

The Threat to Individual Liberty in Judge Kavanaugh's CFPB Opinion

by Karen Sokol | July 24, 2018
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. "This is a case about executive power and individual liberty." That is how Judge Brett Kavanaugh started the opinion he wrote for a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was unconstitutional. That opinion is one among many that reflects Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh's belief that administrative agencies are in a constitutionally ...

Kavanaugh's Threat to Government Transparency and Accountability

by Daniel Farber | July 19, 2018
This post is part of a series on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Presidents control crucial government agencies with authority over the environment, food and drug safety, and workplace conditions. Through various environmental, health, safety, and other laws, Congress has given these agencies broad authority to issue rules and regulations that affect the lives of every American. But current law provides safeguards against arbitrary decisions – safeguards that Judge Brett Kavanaugh would weaken or eliminate if confirmed to ...

Senate Must Preserve Rule of Law When Considering Benczkowski and Pruitt's Successor

by David Driesen | July 09, 2018
In addition to deciding the fate of a Supreme Court nominee, the Senate must soon consider whether to approve Brian Benczkowski as head of criminal enforcement for the Department of Justice and a nominee to replace Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator. In early 2017, I urged senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities by only approving nominees who would faithfully execute the laws of the United States. But the Senate approved Pruitt anyway, with disastrous results. The chamber now needs to ...

Borrowing from CPR Playbook, Small Business Administration Brings New 'Win-Win' Approach to Regulations

by James Goodwin | July 05, 2018
When it comes to regulatory protections for health, safety, and the environment, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and its Office of Advocacy don't always put the public interest first. Falling in line with industry and small-government conservatives, it often opposes public protections, particularly where small businesses are concerned. So I was delighted to see a faint ray of sensibility peek through the SBA's usual anti-safeguard cloud last week when it issued a press release announcing its collaboration with a professional ...

Laying Down the Law on Rule Delays

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 14, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. Since the Reagan administration, it has become commonplace for new presidential administrations, in one of their first official acts after inauguration, to freeze at least some pending regulatory actions of the prior administration. These freezes have been of varying breadth and have taken varying forms. The Trump administration’s regulatory freeze was notable for its sweeping scope and blunderbuss execution. In the early months of President Donald J. Trump’s presidency, agencies delayed many ...

Baltimore Sun Op-Ed: Baltimore Employer of Smothered Worker Should Be Held Criminally Accountable

by Rena Steinzor | June 12, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun. On June 5, a 19-year-old construction worker named Kyle Hancock was smothered to death when a deep trench where he was working collapsed. R.F. Warder Inc., the construction company that hired Hancock to help fix a leaking sewage pipe, and the bosses it employed are responsible for his death, plain and simple. Their failure to shore the trench to prevent a collapse was grossly negligent, readily foreseeable, eminently preventable and, therefore, criminal. The ...

Disastrous Inequality

by Daniel Farber | May 10, 2018
Texas and Puerto Rico both got hit very hard last year by major hurricanes. But the federal government moved a lot more quickly to get help to Texas. In a new paper, I document the difference and explore the reasons. Although I won't go into all the details here, this is a situation people need to know about. , though there's a more extensive table in the paper. FEMA says it poured just as many resources into Puerto Rico as ...

New Report: It's Time to Repeal the Congressional Review Act

by James Goodwin | May 02, 2018
Over the last couple of weeks, conservatives in Congress have continued their assault on public safeguards using the once-obscure and once-dormant Congressional Review Act (CRA). If their latest adventure succeeds, it will be the 16th public protection that these members, working with in concert with President Donald Trump, have obliterated over the last year, laying waste to a broad and diverse range of measures related to public health, safety, the environment, and consumer financial protection.  The anti-safeguard lawmakers behind these ...

Promoting Energy Innovation

by Daniel Farber | April 13, 2018
An MIT professor has a great idea for a molten metal battery that could outperform lithium batteries. Of course, like many great ideas, this one might not pan out. But even if it does pan out technically, Grist explains one reason why it might never get to the commercial stage: Ultimately, the thing that makes lithium-ion so tough to topple is something called the "experience curve." The curve maps how, over time, in many different sectors, increases in scale lead ...

At House Judiciary Hearing, CPR's Hammond Calls Out Efforts to Rig Environmental Review Process

by James Goodwin | April 12, 2018
This morning, CPR Member Scholar and George Washington University Law Professor Emily Hammond is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law at a hearing that will look at two highly flawed bills. While their particulars differ, each is conspicuously (if a bit clumsily) designed to rig the environmental permitting process to allow industry groups to ram through big infrastructure and construction projects while shutting out the public from its traditional and ...

The Guidance Racket

by Rena Steinzor | March 27, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. The spirited conservative attack on regulatory guidance is both puzzling and hypocritical. Admittedly, agencies sometimes issue guidance to avoid the quicksand of informal rulemaking. But the law makes clear that without full-dress procedure, guidance can never replace rules and statutes in enforcement actions. Remedying agency overreach in the rare circumstances when enforcement cases are based primarily on guidance is a straightforward legal matter—defendants have only to tell their problems to a judge. ...

CPR's Heinzerling to House Small Business Committee: Trump's Assault on Safeguards Nothing to Celebrate

by James Goodwin | March 07, 2018
Later this morning, CPR Member Scholar and Georgetown Law Professor Lisa Heinzerling will testify before the House Small Business Committee at a hearing that appears to be aimed at reveling in the Trump administration's assault on regulatory safeguards. In her testimony, Professor Heinzerling will explain why the celebratory mirth and merriment from the committee's majority members and their invited witnesses is misplaced and most likely premature.  As Heinzerling will point out, the major motivating force behind the Trump administration's assault is ...

Good Government

For democratic government to function properly, the people need to know what their government is doing in their name. That demands both transparency and honesty from government officials and agencies. In recent years, however, some in government have worked to shield their work from public inspection, and not just where national security is concerned.

Disastrous Inequality

Farber | May 10, 2018 | Good Government

Steinzor: Trump's reform won't stop mass incarceration

Freeman | Dec 21, 2017 | Good Government

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