Trump signs '2-for-1' order to reduce regulations

President Trump on Monday signed an executive order that would require agencies to revoke two regulations for every new rule they want to issue.

The executive order is aimed at dramatically rolling back federal regulations, one of his top campaign promises.

Trump met with a handful of small business owners at the White House prior to signing the order.

He called the executive order “a big one," according to a pool report.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We want to make ... life easier for small businesses,” he said, adding that it would also benefit large businesses. “There can’t be any discrimination.”

The order requires agencies to control the costs of all new rules within their budget. Agencies are also prohibited from imposing any new costs in finalizing or repealing a rule for the remainder of 2017 unless that cost is offset by the repeal of two existing regulations.

Trump's order does make exceptions for emergencies and national security.

Starting in 2018, the order calls on the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget to give each agency a budget for how much it can increase regulatory costs or cut regulatory costs.

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.

Trump on Monday said he wasn't done targeting regulations, reiterating his campaign promise to try and cut 75 percent of rules.

“The American dream is back," he said.

"This isn’t a knock on President Obama; this is a knock on many president[s] preceding me,” he continued, referring to the burdens on businesses. “Regulation has been horrible for big business, but it’s been worse for small business.”

The president has especially been critical of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, calling it a “disaster.”

“We’re going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” he vowed.

 

Regulatory experts argue the “one in, two out” plan will in most cases kick in when an agencies issues a rulemaking. But there is uncertainty of how that would work, since the order comes amid a regulatory freeze imposed on agencies by the new administration.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus sent a memo to agency heads hours after the inauguration advising them not to issue any more regulations. 

In an email to The Hill, Brian Mannix, a research professor at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center said there would need to be an exception to, if not an actual thaw, in the regulatory freeze before Trump’s order can take effect.

“Exceptions are inevitable anyway, for rules that are needed to meet deadlines – whether to comply with some legal requirement, or to permit manufacturers to make compliant products, or just to allow hunting seasons to begin on time,” he said.  “My guess is that OMB [the White House Office of Management and Budget] \OIRA [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs] will be giving agencies guidance on how the provisions of the new E.O. [executive order] will be implemented.”

The U.S. isn't the first country to impose such a restriction on regulators. Trump could use similar policies in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom as a model for his order. 

For every rule issued in the U.K., three existing rules must be eliminated.

According to a U.K. government report, that requirement saved businesses £885 million from May 5, 2015 to May 26, 2016, or nearly $1.1 billion based on current conversion rates. 

Pro-regulatory advocates, though, called Trump's order "ridiculous." 

"This EO is just the next and most arbitrary attack in a litany of attacks against public protections," said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division.

"From overreaching measures like this ridiculous 'two out, one in,' standard, to the agency gag orders keeping staff from discussing their work protecting the public, to the discussion of massive budget cuts – Trump and Republican lawmakers are attempting to usher in an era where the protections the American people need and want will come second to industry profits."

Monday's directive comes days after a busy week of new executive orders from Trump, including Friday's controversial order that calls for a 90-day ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the United States and puts an indefinite halt on admitting Syrian refugees.

This story was last updated at 1:09 p.m.