President Trump signed an executive order on Friday creating new task forces at every federal agency that will identify regulations for elimination or modification.
The order was the second Trump issued to cut federal regulation in the opening weeks of his presidency, following a requirement that agencies cut or modify two existing regulations for every new one they issue. The latest action will task a “team of dedicated people” at each agency to search throughout their regulatory portfolios to identify rules that “kill jobs” or are otherwise harmful to the economy, Trump said before signing the order. He added the order was “one of many ways” his administration would eliminate regulations, and the latest effort will accomplish “much more than” the initial one in, two out policy.
“Excessive regulations are killing jobs, driving companies out of our country like never before,” Trump said in the Oval Office while surrounded by about a dozen leaders of large businesses.
Each task force, he explained, will make recommendations to either repeal or simplify existing regulations. The groups will report to the White House “every once in a while” to explain their progress.
“Every regulation should have to pass a simple test,” Trump said. “Does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers. If the answer is ‘no,’ we will be getting rid of it and getting rid of it quickly.”
Federal regulatory experts, however, have warned eliminating such regulations could be easier said than done. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have already completed retrospective reviews that attempted to eliminate or streamline high-impact, unnecessarily burdensome regulations. The “low-hanging fruit,” according to Amit Narang, a regulatory policy expert for Public Citizen, has already been picked.
“And the previous administrations,” Susan Dudley, who served as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under President George W. Bush, said in December, “did not find it easy.”
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, said agencies did not take previous retrospective reviews seriously.
"I applaud this action by the president," Lankford said. "This new action adds some teeth to retrospective review by putting processes in place and holding agencies accountable."
Narang said on Friday Trump was “doubling down” on “dangerous anti-regulatory efforts” that serve the interests of big business rather than average American citizens.
“The EO will install Trump’s hand-picked deregulatory henchmen in agencies throughout our government and empower them to hack away at critical public protections,” Narang said. A White House spokesperson said a the existing regulatory policy officer, a regulatory reform officer designated by the agency head and a representative of the central policy office will make up the task forces. At large agencies, they will also include three "senior officials," as determined by agency leadership.
In issuing the order, the White House estimated the Obama administration had finalized more than 3,000 regulations at a cost of $873 billion. Trump noted regulation has been a problem in the country “long beyond Obama.”
In addition to one in, two out and Friday’s task force order, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a memorandum on Trump’s first day in office freezing all federal regulation.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with comment from Sen. James Lankford and the White House.