Investigative Group

Agencies Use Regulatory ‘Dark Matter’ To Skirt Trump’s Reforms

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Government agencies use “regulatory dark matter” to insert themselves into everyday life without congressional or public approval, a conservative nonprofit watchdog group reported Tuesday.

Federal regulatory orders include presidential and agency memoranda, guidance documents, bulletins and public notices that don’t require prior congressional consent, and empower the government to interfere in business and personal lives, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute report.

“Congress needs to take back its authority over federal agencies,” CEI Vice President Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. said. “The problem with regulatory dark matter is that it allows the executive branch of our government to rule sectors of our economy through mere announcements, rather than actual lawmaking or even proper rule-making.”

Crews praised President Donald Trump’s efforts to curb government regulations, but said agencies “can still create dark matter behind the scenes,” and that additional congressional action is needed to curb the problem. (RELATED: Trump Signs Executive Order Slashing Regulations — ‘Biggest Our Country Has Ever Seen’)

Recent examples of federal regulatory dark matter include Obamacare mandate waivers that extended employer mandate deadlines, Department of Justice guidance on transgender students, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s driverless car guidance. (RELATED: Obama Drops 1,500 Pages Of Regulations On Final Day)

“Congress lacks a clear grasp of the amount and cost of the thousands of executive branch” dark matter regulations, the CEI report said. “There are hundreds of ‘significant’ agency guidance documents now in effect, plus many thousands of other such documents that are subject to little scrutiny or democratic accountability.”

Additionally, it’s uncertain how many federal regulatory agencies exist, although there are at least 440, according to the Federal Register. Federal agencies typically issue more than 3,000 new regulations each year.

The Obama administration issued 18 rules for every one law enacted in 2016, for a total of 2,853 new rules.

“Regulation and guidance cannot be controlled without downsizing the federal government itself and strengthening democratic accountability,” the report said. “That requires reining in the colossal bureaucracies that enable rule by unelected experts (so professed).”

Crews recommended that all rules must have a public notification and comment period, and that any new legislation on regulatory reform must address dark matter. He also suggested Congress abolish or downsize agencies that aggressively regulate beyond their congressional authority.

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