Aiming to slash federal regulations, Trump signs 'one in, two out' order

An order signed by President Trump Monday requires federal agencies to cut two existing regulations for every new rule introduced.

Carlos Barria/Reuters
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order cutting regulations, accompanied by small business leaders at the Oval Office on Monday.

An executive order President Trump signed on Monday could lead regulators to, strictly speaking, think twice before they introduce a new rule. For every new regulation they put forward, agencies must identify two others they plan to eliminate to offset costs.

The “one in, two out” order is the Trump administration’s first stab at reining in federal regulations and their associated spending in order to benefit businesses.

“This will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen,” Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office as he signed the order, surrounded by small business owners, according to Politico. “There will be regulation. There will be control. But it will be normalized control.”

During his campaign and his first days in office, Trump vowed to cut 75 percent of regulations in order to help businesses, big and small. He and his staff said Monday that “one in, two out” is just the start. But critics argue the order is an attack on public protections and a solution with a catchy banner in search of a problem.

The order aims to both limit federal regulations and prepare the process to set an annual cap on the cost of new regulations. In the rest of fiscal year 2017, the order will require regulators seeking a new rule to identify two existing ones they plan to eliminate. They will report to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which reviews major regulations already.

The order does not require the repeal of the two regulations simultaneously. But the stated intention is that no agency will increase its total spending on regulations this year. The order does make exemptions for emergencies, the military, and national security.

Starting in 2018, the order then calls on the director of OMB to give each agency a budget for how much it can increase regulatory costs or cut regulatory costs, according to The Hill: 

Senior administration officials touted it as the “most significant administrative action in the world of regulatory reform since President Reagan created the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in 1981."

OIRA is tasked with reviewing and signing off on all proposed and final rules before they are published in the Federal Register. 

When the new order does kick in, consumer rights groups say its affect could be disastrous.

“It’s horrifying that even after the Wall Street crash, the massive BP oil spill and numerous other public health and safety disasters across the country due to a lack of strong regulations, Americans will once again have to pay the price for the consequences of corporate recklessness, greed and lawbreaking,” Robert Weissman, the president of the group Public Citizen, said in a statement on Monday. “This [executive order] is just the next and most arbitrary attack in a litany of attacks against public protections.”

But such restrictions aren’t unheard of on the world stage. Canada, Australia, and Britain have all introduced similar orders, according to The Hill. For every rule issued in Britain, three existing rules must be eliminated. According to a government report, the rule saved businesses £885 million ($1.1 billion) from May 5, 2015 to May 26, 2016.

But Steve Benen, a political blogger for MSNBC, warns that the Trump administration’s version is a hasty and dangerous approach:

Obviously, Trump and his Republican team are going to be hostile towards regulations, safeguards, and layers of accountability. These attitudes are deeply rooted in GOP orthodoxy and are common among those who see government protections as needless hindrances to the free market.

But the grown-up way of reducing regulations is to identify existing safeguards that an administration considers unnecessary or out of date and then eliminate them. Trump’s way of reducing regulations is an arbitrary little game he expects federal officials to play.

In his first month in office, Trump has also promised to scale back environmental regulations to bolster the auto industry. Auto execs that met Trump at the White House welcomed the promises intended to aide them in opening new assembly plants in the US.

"I come out with a lot of confidence that the president is very, very serious about making sure that the United States' economy is going to be strong and have policies on tax, regulatory, or trade to drive that," Mark Fields, the chief executive of Ford, told reporters after the meeting, according to The Washington Post. "That encourages all of us as CEOs as we make decisions going forward. It was a very, very positive meeting." 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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