Midnight Regulations

The final months of an outgoing presidential administration typically generate a significant amount of regulatory activity. This increased regulatory activity during the “midnight” period has been documented as early as the Carter administration’s transition to Reagan, and has accompanied every presidential transition since, regardless of political party. The midnight period is typically defined as the period between the presidential election in November and Inauguration Day on January 20th of the following year.

Cumulative Economically Significant Final Rules by Administration

Line graph of major rules for various administrations by month.

View related charts on our Reg Stats page


Number of Major Rules Published by Presidential Year

Data on the number of major rules published by presidential year from 1996 to 2019.


Our Reg Stats page contains helpful charts for assessing aggregate regulatory policy over time and across administrations. The concept of "midnight regulations" appears evident in this data with the number of annual major rules published by the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.

Related Content: 



Regulatory Reboot: Options for Revisiting Midnight Regulations

By: Susan E. Dudley -- February 23, 2016

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is bracing for the rush of regulatory activity that typically comes during the final year of a presidential administration. A government planning document lists 95 economically significant final regulations as priorities for President Obama’s final year in office. But according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, any rule published after May 16 runs the risk of being summarily overturned in 2017.