Kavanaugh's Threat to Government Transparency and Accountability

by Daniel Farber | July 19, 2018

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 the U.S. Supreme Court.

These safeguards are designed to promote public input and force agencies to disclose their evidence and reasoning to public scrutiny. Agencies must disclose proposed rules, obtain public comment, and then provide explanations of their decisions. As interpreted by the courts, this means an agency has to provide enough information to allow substantive comments, and it has to give a reasoned explanation for its decisions. But Kavanaugh seemingly wants to give agencies much more ability to hide the ball. 

In a case called American Radio Relay League v. FCC, Kavanaugh advocated radical surgery on current safeguards. Briefly, the case involved a Bush-era FCC approval of a promising new technology for using power lines to supply broadband internet, which could result in radio interference. Based on studies by its staff, the FCC decided that a few simple precautions would prevent any serious interference. But it didn't release the studies until it was sued under the Freedom of Information Act. And even when its decision was being reviewed by a court, it ...

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 ...

Trump White House: Safeguards Produce Huge Net Benefits; Also Trump White House: Repeal Them Anyway

by James Goodwin | February 28, 2018
Last week, the Trump administration released the annual Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations. As befitting this auspicious occasion, the administration pulled out all the stops: targeted op-eds from high-ranking administration officials; relevant operatives dispatched to the leading Sunday morning talk shows; and even a televised press conference with the president himself.  Just kidding. They buried it. Quietly. Late on a Friday afternoon. When Congress was away on recess.  And even though it's already ...

The Hill Op-ed: Justice Dept's Enforcement Policies Make Change for the Worse

by Rena Steinzor | February 22, 2018
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has wasted little time portraying himself as the prosecutor-in-chief of street — as opposed to white collar — crime, rejecting this month even a broadly bipartisan effort to reduce sentences for nonviolent crime supported by a coalition that spans the Koch brothers and the NAACP. Civil enforcement has also fallen off, as documented in investigative reporting by The New York Times and others. Both trends will almost certainly continue given ...

Government and Bureaucracy Play Essential, Fundamental Roles in American Life

by James Goodwin | January 31, 2018
President Trump's first State of the Union address contained numerous outrageous claims and statements, rendering a full dissection and critique practically impossible. Many have already singled out one line of the speech as worthy of particular condemnation, so I'll add mine. Early on, Trump made this statement to the rapturous applause of his conservative allies in Congress: "In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life." This claim is not only ...

What Creates the Cost, Mr. President?

by Matthew Freeman | January 31, 2018
During the State of the Union address last night, no one was surprised to hear President Trump brag about all the work his administration has done slashing regulatory safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and financial security. It’s clearly one of his proudest first-year accomplishments — making us all less safe and more vulnerable to industries that profit by polluting the air and water, creating unsafe working conditions, using underhanded financial practices, or selling dangerous products. The president thinks that ...

Breaking the Law: Many Trump Regulatory Rollbacks and Delays Are Unlawful

by Bill Funk | January 30, 2018
Progressives have rightfully taken issue with the Trump administration's policy goals, from immigration to the environment, from health care to worker safety. Given the president's decidedly unprogressive stances, one should not be surprised at the policy reversals from the prior administration. One might be surprised, however, and dismayed as well, at the cavalier disregard that the administration has shown for the law, both substantive and procedural.  For example, President Trump's earlier executive orders on the "Muslim ban" were overturned not ...

The Congressional Review Act: Trump's First-Year Participation Trophy

by James Goodwin | January 29, 2018
Perhaps because he has so few real accomplishments to his name, President Donald Trump has developed a nasty habit of embellishing his record. From the size of the crowd at his inauguration to the number of floors in Trump Tower, he simply won't let a little thing like "reality" or "facts" or even "cardinal numbers" get in the way of his estimation of his own self-worth. Expect this behavior to be on full display at tomorrow night's State of the ...

Looking Back on a Year of Trump's Regulatory 'Fire and Fury'

by Matt Shudtz | January 26, 2018
Next Tuesday, President Trump will share his view of the state of our union. And if his words correlate with his actions over the last year, the dominant theme will be one of division and disruption. Like no president in recent history, Donald Trump has pushed U.S. residents to cordon ourselves off into dueling tribes whose theories of governance and policymaking diverge and whose basic facts and language are starting to split in disturbing ways. But on whichever side of ...

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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