Why Obama Is Writing a Flood of New Regulations for Trump to Repeal

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Hanging in there.Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

The moment Donald Trump takes his seat in the Oval Office next month, the Republican Party will take a sledgehammer to Barack Obama’s legacy. And the president’s final regulations will be among the first things that hammer breaks to bits.

That’s because, unlike most of the president’s agenda, the GOP will be able to dispose of Obama’s final federal rules without fear of a Democratic filibuster: The Congressional Review Act empowers Congress to repeal any regulations passed within the final 60 legislative days of its previous session by a simple majority vote.

And since our elected representatives work about as often as trust-fund hipsters who are “focusing on their music right now,” 60 legislative days stretches all the way back to May.

Granted, the CRA has been used to repeal a regulation only once in its ten years of existence. But today’s Republican Party is not known for its restraint when opportunities to obstruct or repeal Democratic policies present themselves.

Considering these facts, you might imagine that the Obama administration’s bureaucrats are putting their feet up, playing paper football and enjoying long, cocktail-laden lunches.

But you would be wrong. Instead, they’re working around the clock to finalize as many new regulations as possible — because even though time is their enemy, it is also their best friend. Per the Washington Post:

While Republicans are already warning that they will reverse some of the rules Obama will issue during the last months of his presidency, White House officials are determined to move ahead, reasoning that having more rules in place will force the new administration to choose which ones are worth the time and effort of reversal … Given the fact that each rule reversal takes up 10 hours of floor time in the Senate and that senators must also confirm key political nominees and pass a budget, [one GOP aide] estimated that Congress was likely to overturn between five and seven of Obama’s last rules.

The more new rules the White House writes, the safer each previous rule becomes. Or so the Obama administration reasons.

Still, the GOP is likely to find time for any regulation that has a significant impact on reducing climate emissions or economic inequality. Rohit Kumar, a principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers and former aide to Mitch McConnell, told the Post that “anything in the areas of tax, financial services, labor or environment” would be a target for the new Congress.

One likely victim is a rule that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks and tractor trailers, which is expected to eliminate 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetimes of regulated vehicles. The rule was passed in August and has earned the support of many of the affected manufacturers.

Other vulnerable rules include updated requirements from the EPA on what businesses must do to prevent the accidental release of dangerous chemicals, the Labor Department’s expansion of overtime-pay eligibility, and a Department of the Interior revision of workplace standards regarding how laborers should shut off complicated pieces of machinery.

But if the White House’s bureaucrats keep their pencils pushing, perhaps one or two of these regulations will survive. There are only so many hours in a legislative day.