Charting Midnight Regulation Before Dawn: Part 1

“Midnight” regulation refers to the historical rush of federal rules after Election Day and before the next president takes the oath of office. As a president leaves, if they are replaced by a president of a different political party, there will be an incentive to cement as many regulatory priorities as possible. The last two political transitions in the White House (2000 and 2008) resulted in abnormally high regulatory activity.

In January 2016, regulators imposed $17.8 billion in final rule costs. How does this compare to other similar periods? Although not a presidential election year, in January 2015, regulators published $14.2 billion in costs. In 2012, that figure was $7.7 billion and in 2008, the last time there was a party shift in the White House, regulators imposed $8.9 billion in regulatory burdens. For costs at least, President Obama has gotten off to a fast start in his last year in office. There is the ultimate question of President Obama’s regulatory legacy. Various reports have described his agenda as “job-killing,” while others claim he regulates less than his predecessor. Thankfully, the Government Accountability Office keeps track of all major regulations. Through this point in his presidency, George W. Bush issued 397 major rules. By contrast, President Obama has issued 558, or 40 percent more.

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