WashPost: White House Delayed Rules to Avoid Pre-Election Controversy

Saturday, 14 Dec 2013 10:21 PM

By Todd Beamon

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The Obama administration deliberately postponed enacting a number of rules and regulations to avoid stirring up controversy before last year's presidential election, according to several current and former employees, The Washington Post reports.

Some administration officials were required to have proposals vetted in advance in so-called "Mother-may-I" meetings, while some were told to not submit plans for new regulations for as much as a year before the election, the Post says.

Rules that were delayed or never enacted were related to Obamacare, workplace safety, the environment, and other issues, the Post reports.

“As we entered the run-up to the election, the word went out the White House was not anxious to review new rules,” said a former official of the Environmental Protection Agency, one of seven present or former senior White House employees interviewed by the Post.

The report flies in the face of longstanding contentions by the White House that any delays in regulation until after the election were coincidental and not affected by politics — assertions debunked by those interviewed by the Post.

Emily Cain, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, told the Post that the administration’s “approach to regulatory review is consistent with long-standing precedent across previous administrations and fully adheres” to federal rules.

“OMB works as expeditiously as possible to review rules, but when it comes to complex rules with significant potential impact, we take the time needed to get them right,” Cain said in a statement.

In addition, the Post's article was bolstered by data released earlier this month by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), an independent agency that advises the federal government on regulatory issues.

That report was developed from anonymous interviews with more than a dozen senior Obama officials in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which administers the implementation of federal rules, the Post reports.

Internal reviews of proposed regulatory changes “took longer in 2011 and 2012 because of concerns about the agencies issuing costly or controversial rules prior to the November 2012 election,” the document said.

For instance, the officials told ACUS investigators that they had to meet with an OIRA officer before submitting critical regulations for review, the Post reports. That started in 2012 — and the sessions were characterized as "Mother-may-I" meetings.

The seven Post interviewees, four White House appointees and three career employees, verified that ACUS information.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the Democrat who heads the Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action, charged to the Post that “legal protection delayed is protection denied.

"I’ve spoken to officials at the top rungs of the White House power structure and at OIRA — and we’re going to hold their feet to the fire, and we’re going to make sure they’re held accountable in a series of hearings."

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