It was an unusual promise for a presidential candidate to make, but it drew applause from supporters when Donald Trump pledged to kill two federal regulations for every new one he offered.
While in office, he didn’t forget the promise and pressed his Cabinet secretaries to cut. At one point, they were cutting a dozen Obama-era regulations for every new Trump rule, slashing red tape and potential costs to taxpayers along the way.
The administration was so proud of its deregulation that Trump posed with a sky-high stack of regulations representing those he had killed, and his team added a new line to an annual report card that showed how many rules had been eliminated.
But under the Biden administration, that effort has died.
What’s more, his team doesn’t want to mention deregulation, and it even erased the Trump-era “Deregulatory” designation on lists called the “Unified Agenda,” according to regulation watchdog Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
In reviewing the administration’s latest list, he said the Biden team has gone a step further, eliminating the designation from past Trump report cards and taking away a nerdy but significant reform that Republican budget experts like to crow about.
“The distinctions between regulatory and deregulatory weren’t merely silently dropped back in the spring 2021 edition of the agenda. They were scrubbed even from the Trump years in the government’s database,” Crews said.
3,142 rules and 71,678 pages to date in the 2021 Federal Register. @ceidotorg https://t.co/xBqHYo7s8X— Clyde Wayne Crews Jr (@wayne_crews) December 17, 2021
He suggested the change would undermine the faith regulations watchers will have in Biden’s reports.
“This act has broader implications for trusting progressive government with data, on everything from economic reporting to vaccine efficacy trials to climate realities to routine cost-benefit calculations. A Biden Day One directive even removed guidance document portals and directed the removal of rules agencies had issued to codify guidance disclosure procedures under Trump,” he said.
“There was no need other than malice to eliminate telling the public whether a rule was deregulatory or not so that we could keep better track of the administrative state,” Crews told Secrets.
He also warned that Biden appears poised to expand federal regulations greatly, especially if he loses control of the House and Senate, leaving him only with executive orders to impose his liberal agenda. Former President Barack Obama called that ruling with a “pen and a phone” when he lost support on Capitol Hill.
“Despite all the talk we have from Biden and many Democrats about protecting democracy, progressives see themselves as experts, and progressivism itself is rooted in the rule of experts,” Crews said.
“It looks like Biden's not getting his Build Back Better Act at the moment, but take it from me. They'll be using the occasion to say, ‘Well, hell, we can do this just using the infrastructure legislation and other precedence and act without Congress,’ bringing back the infamous pen and phone,” he said.
Executive orders do not have the weight of law, and a new president can repeal them. But Crews and others have warned that adding programs through rules changes is harder to get rid of than Biden’s program halting Trump’s deregulation.
“Democracy is actually a barrier to their goals, so any thread they can use to institute policies from the Build Back Better program, which is primarily aimed at getting able-bodied adults hooked on government programs, they will do so,” Crews said. “Just as you saw Biden and his press secretary claim that a 50-year-old law gave them the right to mandate vaccines, you will see them do similar grabs and reaches from Obamacare, from the Education Department and its programs, from Social Security and Medicare to advance elements of what they call Build Back Better and other progressive passions.”