Obama’s Regulatory Scheming Saved His Presidency, Could Save Senate Democrats

December 17, 2013 by Sam Rolley


One of the theoretical graces of America’s political system is the ability of voters to revolt against the ruling party if the people in charge are guilty of imposing unpopular regulations that negatively impact the Nation. But perhaps more than any other Administration in history, the White House led by President Barack Obama has taken steps to ensure that the full effect of its policy moves would be concealed to voters until it is too late for change.
A recent Washington Post analysis of the Obama Administration’s rule-making procedures reveals that the Administration systematically kept new regulations out of the public view until the President successfully won a second term in the White House. Among the regulations delayed until after the 2012 election were key provisions related to the Affordable Care Act, new Federal water regulations and controversial pollution controls.
The newspaper reports: “The Obama administration has repeatedly said that any delays until after the election were coincidental and that such decisions were made without regard to politics. But seven current and former administration officials told The Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama’s top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection.”
The analysis also cites a report conducted by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), which notes how the regulatory approval process jumped from an average completion time of 50 days between 1994 and 2011 to 79 days in 2012 leading up to the Presidential election.
“As we entered the run-up to the election, the word went out the White House was not anxious to review new rules,” an unidentified former Administration official told The Post.
With Obama comfortably re-seated in the Oval Office, the President’s burgeoning regulatory agenda is moving forward — with some notable, and politically expedient, exceptions.
A report released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) estimates that the planned regulatory agenda released just before the Thanksgiving holiday, which is comprised of more than 3,000 new rules, combined with already existing regulations will take a $1.8 trillion toll on the economy in annual compliance costs.
An American Action Forum (AAF) accounting of the major regulatory changes handed down by the Obama Administration for the coming year estimates a $143.3 billion financial burden for the private sector alone. The analysis takes into account regulations related to portions of the Obamacare law requiring more food labeling in restaurants, new Environmental Protection Agency regulations for emissions standards and a variety of other new regulatory burdens, ranging from Department of Energy rule changes affecting portable air conditioners to the Department of Education’s revised “Gainful Employment” rule. Not included in the AAF cost estimate are regulatory changes stemming from the Volker Rule and other financial regulations, which pose a significant threat to community banks and credit unions.
The Obama Administration’s motive in stalling portions of the burdensome regulatory agenda is not just because the Administration feared a business revolt. The regulations will also affect the overall economy and the individual consumer pretty quickly.
“Regulations, more or less, operate like hidden taxes,” AAF director of regulatory policy Sam Batkins told the Washington Free Beacon earlier this month. “Last year the administration admitted that we had about $30 billion in new regulatory burdens, and that’s just from cabinet agencies. Our estimate from all agencies was a little bit higher.
“But that’s $30 billion, that’s roughly the same amount that taxes increased this year, with higher income and capital gains taxes, and higher Medicare taxes, as well,” he said.
Batkins went on to note that much of the Obamacare regulation that, by law, is supposed to be implemented by the end of 2014. But the AAF’s cost estimate left off many of the unknowns related to that law.
“A lot of the Obamacare rulemaking will have to be finalized by 2014,” he said. “Something that’s not even on this list is the employer mandate, and the bulk of the analysis that has to go into that.”
But that’s where the President’s politically motivated stymieing of his own regulatory agenda comes into play in much the same way as it did leading up to the 2012 Presidential election.
The Administration has been forced to move deadlines time and again to cover up for failures in building the new healthcare insurance exchanges. But two of the most revealing Obamacare delays handed down by the Administration that implemented the law include a decision over the summer to postpone the employer insurance mandate until January 2015 and a move last month to extend the 2014 Obamacare enrollment period. Second-year Obamacare enrollments were originally scheduled to take place from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2014. Signups will now take place from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15, 2015.
Both moves have been criticized by Republicans as ploys to keep voters from going to the polls in 2014 with Obamacare in mind.
“This is clearly a cynical political move by the Obama administration to use extra-regulatory, by any means necessary tools to keep this program afloat and hide key information from voters,” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement last month.
“The Obama administration ought to answer for this shift,” he said. “The administration is welcome to prove me wrong by committing to put out 2015 plan year premium rates by November 1, 2014.”
The Administration is seemingly taking special care to protect vulnerable Senate Democrats in the 2014 elections by dragging its feet with choice Obamacare regulations — in much the same way it slowed the overall regulatory agenda leading up to Obama’s re-election. And it’s a good idea on Obama’s part. Democrats currently hold 55 Senate seats to the GOP’s 45 seats, and Republicans are eyeing Democratic-held seats in at least six States. If Republicans could muster a net gain of six seats based on fresh Obamacare failures, they would regain Senate control.
That would be bad news for a President trying desperately to make a political impact during the final years of a second term.
Conversely, if the Obama Administration can successfully insulate Democrats from voter revolt sparked by his regulatory agenda in 2014, the President will have no trouble implementing his will for the remainder of his tenure with very little political blowback.

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