On January 30th President Trump signed an executive order to curb what his campaign highlighted as burdensome regulations. The executive order requires federal agencies to repeal “at least two” current regulations when implementing one new regulation. The language of the order describes its intention “to manage the costs associated with governmental imposition of private expenditures required to comply with Federal regulations.” This coincides with President Trump’s belief that federal regulations have hampered American business’ ability to grow and prosper.
The order only applies to executive branch departments and agencies, excluding independent agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. Regulations regarding the “military, national security and foreign affair functions” are exempt and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director can waive the rule in certain instances at his discretion. Rep. Mick Mulvaney is awaiting his Senate confirmation vote for the position. The order will also create a process to set an annual cap on the cost of new regulations. For fiscal 2017 the cap will be zero sum, with new regulations required to be offset by the removal of existing rules.
This order follows a memorandum freezing regulations from the White House shortly after Trump’s oath of office on January 20th and is considered standard by incoming administrations. The memo from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus details the abilities of the OMB director to waive the order for emergency “situations or other urgent circumstances” and requests that no new regulations be sent to the Federal Register and to those already sent to be withdrawn. The memo postpones regulations that have been published by 60 days with exceptions. OMB’s acting director Mark Sandy also released a memo for agency heads outlining similar guidelines on January 24th.
The order, which is clear in its intent, creates a fair number of questions. It is unclear what the implications would be for sectors that have few regulations, such as cybersecurity. In that sector, the government is struggling to keep up with emerging technologies and the threat of intrusions. Government policy experts have said the rule will make it difficult to enact congressional legislation on a wide range of topics and will make the time-consuming process for regulations to undergo even longer. It would likely complicate the process of repealing and replacing of the Affordable Care Act which was greatly enacted through Department of Health and Human Services regulations.
What is clear is that this order has an upward battle. The complications of the already rigorous regulation process and the vaguely described waiver authority of the OMB director are all elements of uncertainty. Moreover, few, seemingly only those in the White House, know how this policy will actually be carried out. Meeting the objective of decreasing regulations will be more difficult than simply signing an executive order and will require much more additional guidance.