The Trump Administration has said it is moving forward to slow down the pace of federal regulations and reduce regulatory costs.

Recently, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to federal agencies explaining how the White House will be moving forward with implementation of Executive Order 13771 – “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”.

Both parties have supported looking back at federal regulations to identify what needs to be modernized and what needs to be eliminated.

Under President Obama, federal agencies were directed to review existing regulations and identify rules to be changed or removed because they are out-of-date, unnecessary, or overly burdensome. As part of this retrospective review, or “regulatory lookback,” agencies across the Federal government identified hundreds of initiatives to reduce burdens and save taxpayer dollars.

While this sort of regulatory housekeeping makes sense to ensure that our nation’s public policies are up to date – identifying regulations that need to be updated is the easy part. It will be much harder to move forward with the actual modernization process.

Regulations and rules often exist because they are required by federal laws enacted by Congress. Because they are written in statute, federal agencies may have little leeway to simply remove regulations altogether.

Revisions to outdated regulations are theoretically more plausible. However, the rulemaking process is a lengthy one and can sometimes stretch for the entire term of an Administration or even beyond.

Agencies seeking to revise federal rules already on the books will need to draft new regulations.  This process includes developing economic impact analyses, seeking public comment, and responding to those comments.  This process often takes years of planning and execution.  Not to mention there could be litigation delays if there are parties opposed to an agency’s efforts to undo or change a regulation that is on the books.

Revising regulations is something that most Administrations attempt as they seek to put their stamp on federal policy. This process, however, is anything but fast and success is not guaranteed.

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Bobby Clark is Of Counsel at Winning Strategies Washington, a DC-based government relations firm, and a co-founder of Concordis: Strategy and Analytics. He previously served as a senior health policy for a senior member of the Energy & Commerce Committee, and most recently for the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration.

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