A new report released from the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) has found that the Obama Administration delayed enacting regulations that could adversely affect the 2012 presidential election. The ACUS is an independent agency that advises the government on regulatory matters.
The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace.
Current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity claim that the “scope of the delays” go beyond Obama’s predecessors. Such comments support the findings of the ACUS report. “The report said internal reviews of proposed regulatory changes ‘took longer in 2011 and 2012 because of concerns about the agencies issuing costly or controversial rules prior to the November 2012 election.’ “
The administration denies any delays. “OMB works as expeditiously as possible to review rules, but when it comes to complex rules with significant potential impact, we take the time needed to get them right,” Emily Cain, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget said.
But others disagree.
Ronald White, who directs regulatory policy at the advocacy group Center for Effective Government, said the “overt manipulation of the regulatory review process by a small White House office” raises questions about how the government writes regulations. He said the amount of time it took the White House to review proposed rules was “particularly egregious over the past two years.”
Sources for the ACUS report described the process to submit new rules for formal review as “mother-may-I” meetings. Another said “As we entered the run-up to the election, the word went out the White House was not anxious to review new rules.”
Notably, the administration was slow to handle rules related to Obamacare.
Several key regulations did not come out until after the 2012 election, including one defining what constitutes “essential health benefits” under a health plan and which Americans could qualify for federal subsidies if they opted to enroll in a state or a federal marketplace plan.
The latter focused on what constitutes “affordable.” Treasury proposed a regulation in August 2011 saying an employer plan was affordable as long as the premium for an individual was no more than 9.5 percent of the taxpayer’s household income. Several groups — including labor unions — argued that the proposal did not take into account that the premium for a family plan might be much higher than that standard.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight was alarmed by the delays. “Legal protection delayed is protection denied,” Blumenthal said. “I’ve spoken to officials at the top rungs of the White House power structure and at OIRA and we’re going to hold their feet to the fire, and we’re going to make sure they’re held accountable in a series of hearings.”