In a little-noticed move on Day One, President Joe Biden issued a memo designed to institute a more progressive process for developing new regulations. Such an effort is essential, given that timely, effective regulations will play a key role in achieving Biden-Harris administration's policy agenda. To succeed, however, it must also tackle the conservative philosophy that guides our government's rulemaking process.
Biden's memo focuses on the mechanics of the rulemaking process, and especially two institutions that heavily influence regulatory decisions: centralized, White House review of proposed rules and economics-focused assessments of them. President Reagan and his successors have issued a string of executive orders to govern these institutions. Biden's memo addresses flaws in the current iteration, Executive Order 12866 (along with some other, related orders). Fixing these flaws is necessary to create a more progressive regulatory system that better protects people and the planet.
But 12866's anti-regulatory problems run much deeper than institutional mechanics. Indeed, its entire apparatus is grounded in a neoliberal orthodoxy that casts regulations as dubious in legitimacy and counsels against using them except as a last resort. Attempts to build a new progressive regulatory system on top of this flawed theoretical foundation are …
This post was originally published on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission.
Conservatives love to complain about faceless bureaucrats, but blaming bureaucrats for regulations is hopelessly out of date. When Elena Kagan was a professor, she wrote an article called “Presidential Administration.” The article applauded her former boss Bill Clinton for seizing greater control of the regulatory process, away from agencies. That trend has accelerated to the point where the White House controls even the fine details of regulation.
Two things can get sidelined in presidential administration. One is agency expertise. No one in the White House has as much knowledge as agency experts about air pollution, or climate change, or endangered species.
The other thing that gets sidelined is active implementation of the law actually passed by Congress. The White House staff who review regulations care only about costs and benefits. The president and the higher-level staff …
This post was originally published as part of a symposium on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission.
Presidents since Ronald Reagan have, by executive order, required agencies to submit significant regulatory actions to the White House for review. Academic and public interest observers have variously criticized this review as slow, opaque, chaotic, lawless, and power-grabbing. Yet every president in the intervening years has not only embraced but also deepened the control of the White House over individual regulations.
Even President Obama, who announced early in his first term that he was conducting a top-to-bottom review of this process, ultimately embraced strict White House control over the rulemaking proceedings of the executive agencies. President Trump has taken White House control over rules to a whole different dimension by ordering agencies to revoke two existing rules for every new rule they issue and by …