Republicans Raise Concerns About Uptick In Midnight Regulations

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The Department of Homeland Security issued a regulation Tuesday putting restrictions on the kinds of archaeological materials that can be imported from Egypt.

That may not sound like a big deal unless maybe you're a collector or a museum. There are lots of federal regulations taking effect every day, and in fact there's been an uptick as the Obama administration's time in office wanes.

Such an increase is troubling to Republicans, but gives hope to those who want new policies in place before a new administration moves into the White House.

They're called "midnight regulations," implying they are issued in the dark of night or at the last hour of an outgoing administration.

Susan Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University defined them more broadly.

"I tend to think of true midnight regulations as those issued after the elections," during the three months between election day and inauguration day, she said.

Dudley said that in every recent administration, regardless of party, "we tend to see an uptick in regulatory activity in that window."

The GW center said there are now some 340 significant regulations in the works that fit that bill. Fifty-nine of those are deemed economically significant, which means they are expected to have a impact on the economy of $100 million or more.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest pushed back against the notion that the Obama administration is working overtime to issue new regulations.

"The regulatory work that's being done in this administration is not going to be characterized by a last minute rush on the way out the door," Earnest said. "I think what it will be characterized by is a continuous and persistent effort to complete the work that's already been started."

Groups concerned about the environment hope the administration will issue new rules on energy efficiency for appliances and protecting the Arctic. David Goldston, director of Government Affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council said those "are probably two of the most prominent remaining sets."

Expanding public lands, including a proposed "Bears Ears" National Monument in Utah is also on the wish list.

Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are telling the Obama administration to stop issuing regulations entirely.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has sent that message to a number of agencies, including the Department of Labor about its rule expanding the number of salaried employees eligible for overtime (which has been blocked by a Federal judge,) the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration, over its already-implemented regulations on e-cigarettes.

Johnson wants the FDA to "take a pause on" the vaping regulation, because it could put "an entire industry or most of an industry out of business, thousand of workers out of work and you could really harm people."

Johnson said the Obama administration has been in "overdrive" in terms of issuing major regulations, and that it will be the Senate's job "to really prioritize" and eliminate those regulations "where the costs far exceed any kind of benefit" and make American workers less competitive.

Congress can overturn regulations issued in the last 60 working days under the Congressional Review Act. They'll have to prioritize though, because such votes take valuable time in the Senate, which also needs to act on hundreds of Trump administration nominees and pass a budget.

Goldston of the NRDC says though many regulations, which may not be popular with lawmakers sometimes are to their constituents.

"Often there's kind of this general visceral reaction against regulation," Goldston said. "But once the public is looking at a specific protection where they see the reason for it they generally react badly to it being reversed."

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