Trump Administration Picks up the Regulatory Pace in its Second Year

First 18 months chart
By Bridget C.E. Dooling
August 01, 2018

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Abstract

Significant regulatory activity declined dramatically – by 74% – during the Trump Administration’s first full year in office, compared to the same period in the Obama Administration. This was a profound disruption to the pace of regulatory activity at executive branch agencies.

The first 6 months of the Trump Administration’s second year reveal a quicker pace, with significant regulatory activity down 63% compared to the same period in the Obama Administration. Overall, however, the Trump Administration’s regulatory pace is 70% less than that of the Obama Administration in its first 18 months. This is a striking result for an administration that has made regulatory reform a signature issue.

Introduction

Just 10 days into his term, President Trump signed an executive order following through on his campaign promise to cut Federal red tape. Executive Order 13771 imposed new constraints on executive branch regulatory agencies, directing them to cut two rules for any new rule issued and to offset any costs imposed by new rules.[1] Now, 18 months into the President’s term, we can check in on his regulatory activities. To do so, this analysis uses data from the regulatory review activities of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which provides unique insight into executive branch efforts to make meaningful policy changes in the regulatory realm.

How Does the Trump Administration Stack Up?

Regulatory Actions Reviewed by OIRA

As shown in Chart 1, the number of regulatory actions that OIRA reviewed in Trump’s first presidential year[2] declined dramatically compared to those of the two prior administrations. It was 74% less than the first year of the Obama Administration and 71% less than the same period in the Bush[3] Administration.[4]

Chart 2 shows that, in the first 6 months of Trump’s second year, OIRA reviewed 118 regulatory actions. Although this was almost as many as it reviewed during his first full year (i.e., 125), it was still 63% fewer regulatory actions than during the same period in the Obama Administration, and 59% fewer than in the Bush Administration. While the relative number of regulatory reviews increased compared to the first year, the Trump Administration’s numbers in this period are still far lower than in the prior two administrations.

Combining these two time periods, Chart 3 gives a snapshot of the first 18 months of each administration. During this period, OIRA reviewed 70% fewer regulatory actions in the Trump Administration than in the Obama Administration and 66% fewer than in the Bush Administration.

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[1]    This paper does not offer an assessment of the relative influence of Executive Order 13771 on agency rulemaking activities. Such an assessment would have to untangle Executive Order 13771’s effects from other policy choices, e.g., selections of political appointee at executive agencies.

[2]    This analysis defines “presidential year” or “year” as 365 days starting from inauguration (e.g., January 20, 2017 – January 19, 2018). Similarly, the first 18 months is measured through July 20 of the year following inauguration (e.g., January 20, 2017 – July 20, 2018).

[3]    Here and throughout, “Bush” and “Bush Administration” refers to the George W. Bush Administration.

[4]    The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred in the first year of the Bush Administration, which prompted several new regulatory actions in his first year and also in the first 18 months.  The Obama Administration also had an increase in regulatory actions due to large pieces of legislation – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009 (i.e., in his first year) and the Affordable Care Act in March 2010 (i.e., in his first 18 months).