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Trump 2020 Agenda Envisions More New Rules Than Dumping Old Ones

Nov. 22, 2019, 1:00 PM

The number of significant, expensive rules federal agencies plan to issue next year is nearly double the amount of deregulatory actions in store, undercutting President Donald Trump‘s pledge to slash regulations, according to an analysis of the administration’s new regulatory roadmap.

A total of 119 active, economically significant regulations—those with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more—were included in the fall 2019 unified agenda of federal regulatory and deregulatory actions, which the White House Office of Management and Budget released Nov. 20.

Of the total number of economically significant rules in the new agenda, 39 were listed as being regulatory in nature, compared to 20 that were labeled as deregulatory actions, said Daniel Perez, senior policy analyst at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center. The remainder were classified as exempt.

The Trump administration classifies rules as “deregulatory” if they generate cost savings, “regulatory” if they impose additional costs, or “exempt” if it is spared from Executive Order 13771, Trump’s initiative that federal agencies must cut two rules for every significant regulation issued. There are multiple exemptions, including military and national security rules, emergency actions, and statutorily or judicially required actions, among others.

Perez, who has analyzed each installment of the biannual regulatory agenda under the Trump administration, said the fall 2019 plan is not an outlier, despite Trump’s deregulatory push.

“The current Agenda continues a shift that occurred in the Fall 2018 Agenda—where agencies began planning a greater number of regulatory, economically significant actions,” Perez said in his analysis.

The spring 2019 agenda listed 124 active, economically significant actions, of which 45 were labeled as regulatory and 24 as deregulatory, Perez found. The fall 2018 agenda listed 118 active, economically significant actions, with 41 billed as regulatory and 26 as deregulatory, according to Perez.

Discretionary Rulemaking

The administration’s latest regulatory plan shows it is moving to lock down a number of major regulatory items in the coming months so that those rules are harder to undo if Democrats take the White House and Senate in 2020. But unlike previous regulatory plans released under the Trump administration, the fall 2019 installment was not accompanied by an accounting of all rules introduced and those that were cut in the last year.

The unified agenda is a vast regulatory playbook, featuring 3,752 total active rulemakings, long-term plans, and completed or withdrawn rules. Most of the regulations are minor. Trump’s deregulatory commitment is borne out when one looks across the entirety of the document. All told, the new plan includes 689 rules classified as deregulatory and 324 as regulatory, Perez said.

“However, a breakdown of economically significant rules provides a different way of looking at planned regulatory output,” Perez added.

A senior administration official, responding to the analysis but declining to be quoted by name, said Trump has made reducing regulatory burdens a cornerstone of his presidency. Anyone questioning this administration’s deregulatory efforts has not been paying attention the past three years, the official said, arguing that Trump has done more to deregulate than any president since Ronald Reagan.

The administration’s regulatory agenda includes a mix of rules agencies are required to do, such as for Medicare payment policies and fee schedules, and ones that are discretionary, such as a new proposed rule that would ban characterizing flavors in all cigars.

A number of immigration-related rules are also being pursued. That includes a series of rulemakings and updates aimed at making it more difficult for asylum seekers to meet the legal standards for protection.

“If the administration wants to make new binding policy changes, rulemaking is one way to do it,” said Bridget Dooling, research professor at George Washington’s Regulatory Studies Center. “That is in tension with their overarching goals to deregulate, and this data bears that out for the big-ticket actions.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at; Karl Hardy at