Trump's Deregulatory Agenda Still Rolling, but Pace Slows Slightly

'We have set a record on killing regulations'

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January 2, 2019

President Trump's deregulatory agenda continued in 2018, although the pace of the deregulation has slipped slightly when compared to his first year in office, according to a new analysis by a D.C.-based think tank.

Those findings were based on the number of pages included in the Federal Register at the year's end, which in 2018 topped out at 68,082. The register is the daily journal of the federal government, which in addition to containing executive orders and proclamations also holds all new federal agency regulations as well as proposed rules.

While the number of pages in the register isn't an exact measurement tool for deregulation, it can be a starting point for making approximations. As the report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute noted, "Washington doesn't go out of its way to honestly measure itself and disclose regulatory impact."

The 68,082 mark shows a slight uptick from 2017's tally of 61,308, which was the lowest page count since 1993.

As a point of comparison, in the last two years of President Barack Obama's administration, the number of pages in the register totaled 80,260 in 2015 and 95,894 in 2016.

Last October, the president boasted of the overall efforts, and has often times linked it to the economy's strong performance of late.

"We have set a record on killing regulations," Trump said. "No administration has knocked out as many as us, and we have a long way to go."

If the federal register grew slightly in 2018 compared to the previous year, the estimated savings may still be greater.

"The data show that federal agencies achieved greater net regulatory savings this year [2018] than last, cutting $23 billion in lifetime costs to the economy in fiscal 2018, compared with $8.1 billion in FY 2017," a recent report from Bloomberg Government noted.

"Rules and regulations cannot be revoked, only replaced by new ones under the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act's public notice-and-comment process," according to CEI. When combined with the president's early mandate that federal agencies had to scrap two old rules for every new rule they adopted, it means the procedural act of removing an old rule still requires writings that will contribute to the overall page count of the Federal Register.

The success of the regulatory rollback has already been a focus of Democrats, and will likely continue to be a focus for presidential hopefuls.

For example, California billionaire and political activist Tom Steyer, who many consider to be laying the groundwork for a presidential run, blasted the agenda at a town hall event in California last month.

"Our federal government is working on behalf of corporations and their bottom lines at the expense of people," Steyer said. "So they're rolling back regulations that prevent pollution and make people sick and make people die."