U.S. Chamber official sees enduring deregulation 'habit' resulting from Trump policy moves

February 01, 2018
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The Trump administration's directives for cutting the number and cost of regulations have already forged a deregulation “habit” within federal agencies that will be difficult for future administrations to reverse, according to a senior official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s executive vice president and chief policy officer, says Trump's executive orders on cutting regulations and regulatory costs will have a long-term impact on the way federal agencies operate.

Bradley also predicts that final passage of regulatory reform legislation could happen before the mid-term elections. “I think it's quite possible we could be getting the votes necessary in the Senate” to enact the Regulatory Accountability Act before the end of the year, he said.

Bradley in an interview laid out the business community's regulatory agenda heading into the second year of the Trump administration.

Bradley said bipartisan support for reforming the regulatory process will propel the legislation approved along party lines by the House at the beginning of 2017. Bradley said Democrats who oppose Trump's push to repeal Obama-era rules could be interested in overhauling the rulemaking process.

“If you're concerned about the breakdown in the process,” you should be interested in passage of the Regulatory Accountability Act, Bradley said, adding “I certainly think there could be some folks on the Democratic side that have that concern today.”

“Almost even more than the details and operations of them, the executive orders set the early tone for the agencies and the tone was a deregulatory tone. . . . Be mindful of the costs you're imposing, and if you're imposing costs, find ways to reduce costs elsewhere,” said Bradley.

Bradley said the “results were pretty astounding” for the Trump administration's deregulatory push for its first year in office, and those “results are going to continue.” He said “habit drives a lot of things in the government,” and the habit of “looking at ways to roll back unnecessary, too costly and outdated regulations” has already begun to take hold, with an impact on agency management in “2018 and beyond.”

An eventual change in administration “could bring about a change in the text of the EOs” but in the “habits that you set, and expectations that you set, I think this could have long-lasting implications,” Bradley said in referring to Trump's establishment of regulatory reform task forces within each federal agency.

Bradley said the Obama administration “talked about increased transparency and reduced regulatory burdens,” and suggested that Trump's deregulation orders are part of a progression among recently past administrations.

“But even administrations that are more pro-regulatory might think twice about reversing” Trump's deregulation push, which imposes new regulatory budget requirements on agencies.

Bradley described the Chamber's regulatory agenda as a three-pronged strategy, which includes “resolving regulatory overreach” by the Obama administration, identifying “opportunities” where new regulations are needed – but could be developed in a more business-friendly manner – and overhauling the federal rulemaking process to codify portions of the Trump's administration's executive actions.

The last item of the Chamber's “three buckets” for regulatory reform is reflected in the business group's lobbying for the Regulatory Accountability Act, which Bradley described as having the most “legs among legislative proposals” on overhauling the rulemaking process.

The bill, S. 951, was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by a 9-5 vote in May, with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (ND) as the sole Democrat supporting the bill. Ranking member Claire McCaskill (D-MO) indicated some interest in offering an alternative plan when the bill comes up for a Senate floor vote, with no indication on when that might happen.

In looking for new regulatory opportunities, Bradley said “the Chamber's approach isn't that we never have regulation” but that federal agencies develop “sensible regulations” that offer “clarity for businesses,” which Trump's order on reduced regulatory costs seeks to do.

President Trump's executive orders 13771 and 13777 – which are at the core of the administration's deregulation push – are being challenged in court by the left-leaning group Public Citizen, along with other public advocacy organizations.

The Chamber lists helping the government defend Trump's EOs in court among its regulatory reform priorities, while the group continues to work with federal agencies on “triage” in identifying regulations for repeal or revision.

“If you overturn something bad you can't just do nothing, you have to write a sensible regulation,” Bradley said.