Watchdog: Trump Admin Regulatory Push Focuses on 2021 Congress; Largely Ignores COVID-19
New Report Finds that As Pandemic Raged, Trump Pushed Through 700+ Ideological Rules to Ensure Measures Will Not Be Revoked by a New Government Under Congressional Review Act
Read the report HERE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – An investigation and report by watchdog Accountable.US found that in the midst of the global pandemic, the Trump administration has put forward at least 730 new rules or proposed rules across nine agencies. Of those rules and proposed rules, 18 — or just over two percent — deal directly or even indirectly with the coronavirus crisis.
The regulatory push is fueled by a rapidly shrinking window of time before rules are subject to being revoked by a new government in 2021 under the Congressional Review Act. The Act allows Congress the power to overturn agency rules made public in the last 60 legislative days of a prior session. The deadline could come as soon as mid-May, but is dependent on how many legislative days Congress is in session.
“Instead of using every government tool to fight the pandemic, the Trump administration was quietly working on sweeping regulatory changes that benefit industry, hurt consumers, and have virtually nothing to do with the fight against the coronavirus,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US.
“Our investigation found that when it comes to fighting COVID-19, many of the most powerful agencies in government are either asleep at the wheel, or worse, more focused on safeguarding ideologically-driven, pro-industry measures from being struck down by a new Congress next year. Not only do these measures have nothing to do with fighting the pandemic, these actions will actually make life harder for vulnerable Americans who need support.”
Below please find key findings from the report:
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: Sec. Betsy DeVos cited the coronavirus crisis as reason to move forward with rules on distance learning that her office had been working on for more than a year. But her department still withheld immediate coronavirus relief to students, and negligently dragged its feet in opening applications for the CARES Act’s education relief funds while student loan borrowers’ wages were being garnished. Meanwhile, since February 11, 2020, none of the 15 rules and proposed rules issued under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have addressed the pandemic.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: Sec. Eugene Scalia pressed on with an anti-union rule to impose burdensome financial reporting requirements that had long been “championed by conservative groups” like the Americans for Tax Reform and expanded his own power at the department — even as workers and Congress repeatedly pleaded for him to do more to protect workers from the coronavirus. Meanwhile, since February 11, 2020, only three of the 10 rules issued under Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia have explicitly dealt with the pandemic.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Sec. Elaine Chao, whose family runs a shipping company, worked to support the industry during the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, her department further loosened restrictions on the airline industry’s $25 billion bailout allowing them greater flexibility in cutting flight routes and moved forward in weakening C02 emissions standards that would have curbed greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, since February 11, 2020, only four of the 331 rules and proposed rules issued under Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao have explicitly dealt with the pandemic.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: Sec. Sonny Perdue’s department continued to loosen restrictions of mining on public land as Congress pleaded for him to release aid funding for struggling farmers. Nonetheless, his department pressed on with trying to force 700,000 Americans from food stamps during the pandemic, only temporarily relenting after losing in court. Since February 11, 2020, only five of the 55 rules and proposed rules issued under Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have explicitly addressed the pandemic.
CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU: Director Kathy Kraninger cited the coronavirus as a reason to let banks offer potentially exploitative small-dollar loans like those given by payday lenders and proposed a rule on the collection of controversial “zombie debt,” trapping consumers in a cycle of debt. Her deregulatory task force — chaired by a man who once derided efforts against price-gouging during Hurricane Katrina — even solicited industry input amidst the crisis. Meanwhile, since February 11, 2020, under Director Kathy Kraninger, CFPB issued only six rules and proposed rules, and three of them explicitly confronted the coronavirus crisis.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR: Sec. David Bernhardt has maintained a “relentless atmosphere” of deregulation — including undermining public lands, encouraging development, jeopardizing conservation efforts, and fast-tracking the removal of pinyon-juniper trees in Nevada— even as local governments struggling with coronavirus pleaded for a pause. Meanwhile, since February 11, 2020, none of the 46 rules and proposed rules issued under Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt have directly addressed the pandemic.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: Administrator Andrew Wheeler has pushed a rule change that could “censor public health science,” inordinately affecting rules addressed at curbing pollution. Meanwhile, since February 11, 2020, only two of the 229 rules and proposed rules issued under EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler have explicitly dealt with the pandemic.
VETERANS AFFAIRS: Since February 11, 2020, none of the 11 rules and proposed rules issued under Secretary Robert Wilkie have directly addressed the pandemic.
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY: Since February 11, 2020, only one of the 27 final rules and proposed rules issued under Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette have directly addressed the pandemic.