President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered a review of federal regulations with an eye toward getting rid of those that stifle job creation and hurt economic growth, a move aimed at both soothing anger over the government's reach and mending Obama's relationship with the business community.
The president signed an executive order telling federal agencies to look for rules that place an unreasonable burden on businesses. Specifically, Obama said any regulations must reduce uncertainty, be written in plain language, be built upon public participation, and identify the "least burdensome tools" for achieving the goals of the new government rules.
In an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal, the president also said he wants agencies to look for outdated regulations that make the U.S. economy less competitive.
"It's a review that will help bring order to regulations that have become a patchwork of overlapping rules, the result of tinkering by administrations and legislators of both parties and the influence of special interests in Washington over decades," Obama wrote.
However, the executive order, which is similar to an order former President Bill Clinton signed in 1993, doesn't cover some independent agencies that oversee the financial services industry, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve.
The order comes as Republican lawmakers, emboldened by broad victories in the midterm elections, move to scrap many of the administration's programs and regulations, from the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations on greenhouse gases to regulation of the Internet.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote 150 trade associations, companies and think tanks last month seeking to identify regulations that businesses believe hurt job creation. He also named GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to chair a new subcommittee that will investigate wasteful spending and federal regulations.
In a statement Tuesday, Issa said Obama's review, "must be an effort that stretches beyond ideological entrenchments to identify the regulatory impediments that have prevented real and sustained job growth in the private sector." He offered to provide Obama guidance based on the responses his committee gets from the business groups it has contacted.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday's executive order was not tied to GOP action on Capitol Hill, and said the proposal had been in the works for several months. The regulatory review follows several incidents over the past two years that have been blamed in part on insufficient or ineffective regulation, including the BP oil spill and the financial crisis.
Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said while Obama's review is a welcome acknowledgment that government regulations have economic consequences, the president should take bolder steps to immediately reduce regulatory burdens on businesses.
Agencies have 120 days to submit a plan for how they intend to review existing regulations, and officials said it was too soon to say how their reviews could impact regulations already on the books, including the contentious greenhouse gas restrictions, which many business leaders and Republican lawmakers oppose.
The administration is hoping that the review, with its emphasis on eliminating regulations that limit the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, is another step toward repairing Obama's relationship with the private sector.
Business groups have complained that new regulations implementing health care and financial reforms, among others, are holding back hiring and economic growth. The private sector has also been reluctant to invest some of the $2 trillion in assets it's sitting on, in part because of uncertainty over government regulations and tax policies.
Obama has acknowledged that he needed to better manage his relationship with the private sector. He held a five-hour meeting with CEOs in December; he named William Daley, a business executive, as his new chief of staff; and next month, he'll speak at the Chamber of Commerce, a trade group that has battled his top policy initiatives on health care and financial regulation.
Chamber president Tom Donohue welcomed the regulatory review Tuesday, but also said Congress should reclaim some the authority to implement checks and balances on agencies.
Aric Newhouse, spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers, said the regulatory review was a positive first step toward job growth.
"This is an opportunity for the president to demonstrate results by eliminating unnecessary regulations already in the pipeline or delaying poorly thought-out proposals that are costing jobs," said Newhouse, singling out EPA regulations as among those that are a threat to U.S. jobs.
While the review aims to streamline regulations, Obama said federal agencies won't shy away from addressing regulatory gaps, such as new safety rules for infant formula and procedures that stop preventable infections from spreading in hospitals.
"We are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb," the president wrote.
Other regulations, such as the Clean Air Act or child labor laws, are necessary to prevent abuse, he wrote, and "strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy."
Associated Press writers Chris Rugaber and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
Source: The Associated Press.