Federal lawmakers: ‘Time to say goodnight to midnight regulations’

M.D. Kittle
Posted: Feb 29, 2016 5:43 PM
Federal lawmakers: ‘Time to say goodnight to midnight regulations’

Lame-duck presidents  have done some real damage to the American taxpayer.

As Bob Dylan once said, ‘When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”

Now think tax-and-spend President Barack Obama unrestrained by the consequences of a next election, in the last days of his final year in office.

U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, recently introduced a bill (with Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., introducing a companion in the House) to “prevent a surge in costly federal regulations as a president’s term” ends.

The Midnight Rule Relief Act would protect families and small businesses from significant regulations that are often politically motivated and imposed between Election Day and Inauguration Day, according to a statement issued by Johnson.

“Presidents of both parties have ‎consistently attempted to push through regulations during the last few weeks and months of their administrations,” Johnson said. “This bill provides some basic accountability and ensures a president cannot impose a surge of new rules on the American economy as he exits office.”

AP file photo

CLOCK STRIKES: A bill proposed by U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson and Joni Ernst would limit ‘midnight’ rule-making by lame duck presidents, regulations that have cost American taxpayers and business a hefty price tag.

As the New York Times reported in January 2001, President Bill Clinton’s administration pushed the Federal Register, the official bulletin of government activities, to publish 7,371 pages of rules, proclamations and executive orders in the first three weeks of 2001. The 340-page register on Jan. 23, 2001, “was full of Clinton administration decrees” approved the week before.

Regardless of political party, midnight regulations have noticeably increased during the transition time between new administrations, Johnson’s office said in the statement.

But the Obama administration’s passion for red tape is particularly concerning for small business and taxpayers at large.

According to the American Action Forum, the administration has issued $600 billion in new major regulations since 2009.

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The Midnight Rule Relief Act would:

  • Establish a moratorium period beginning on the day after the election through the inauguration on new regulations that cost the economy $100 million or more annually, or result in major cost or price increases for consumers, industries, or government agencies.
  • Include exceptions for rules that are necessary for imminent health or safety threats, enforcement of criminal laws, and national security.
  • Exempt rules that are limited to repealing existing regulations.

Democrats have been down this road before. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., introduced bills in 2009 that opposed midnight rules from going into effect in the closing days of the Bush administration.

“I am reintroducing the Midnight Rule Act to reverse President Bush’s last minute attempts to weaken key legal protections within our federal agencies,” said Nadler in a statement in January 2009, as President George W. Bush was preparing to leave the White House.

John C. Harrison, professor of law at the University of Virginia School of Law, said the bill would seem constitutional because it relates to regulatory power authorized by statute through Congress.

“Congress has an extensive ability to limit regulatory authority, including creating a time period for reasons like this,” said Harrison, who in 2008 served as counselor on international law in the U.S. State Department.

Given the Obama administration’s “tendency to overregulate and overreach, the American people can expect to see a surge of last minute regulations in the president’s waning days in office,” Walberg said in the statement.

“This bill will hold outgoing administrations in check and ensure small businesses in Michigan and across the country aren’t faced with a new onslaught of excessive regulations that stifle wages, job creation, and economic growth,” the lawmaker said. “It’s time to say goodnight to midnight regulations — from both parties.”