As ThinkProgress has documented, President Bush is pushing an array of 11th hour regulations in his final months. In a USA Today op-ed today, White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto defends the practice, claiming that the “midnight” regulations are, in fact, “transparent” and “responsible”:
The record will show a slight increase, but a relatively steady pace in the number of regulations finalized during the fall of this year, the overwhelming majority of which are routine and unremarkable. And instead of a spike of late regulations at the end, we expect a drop-off in the last weeks.
These are not “midnight regulations” or “rushed regulations.” There will be no surprises: The vast majority of regulations finalized in these last months will have been published for public review and comment since June 1, more than six months before the end of the president’s term.
Bush’s last-minute regulations are hardly “unremarkable.” Rather, they are ideologically-driven, and will weaken health care, workers rights, and degrade the environment. Bush still plans on releasing some 20 “highly contentious rules.”
Furthermore, the midnight regulations may prove very difficult to reverse, which is just what the White House intended:
Last May, White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten instructed federal agency heads to make sure any new regulations were finalized by Nov. 1. The memo didn’t spell it out, but the thinking behind the directive was obvious. . … President Clinton finalized regulations within 60 days of the 2001 inauguration, meaning Bush could come in and easily reverse them. It could take Obama years to undo climate rules finalized more than 60 days before he takes office — the advantage the White House sought by getting them done by Nov. 1.
According to a recent study by the conservative Mercatus Center, “If Bush continues at this pace — an average of a major regulation a day from Nov. 1 to Nov. 20 he’ll produce ore last-minute rules than any other president.”
Fratto also claimed the Bush administration’s rule-making process is a “stark break” from the days of regulations being implemented “with inadequate public notice or interagency review.” But the Interior Department’s recent rule allowing uranium mining next to the Grand Canyon, for example, occurred after only 15 days of public comment, less than half the normal period.