New Report Examines Agency Rulemaking Activity at Mid-term Point of Obama Administration

-For Immediate Release-
September 20, 2010

Contact: Brian Gumm, (202) 683-4812,

New Report Examines Agency Rulemaking Activity at
Mid-term Point of Obama Administration

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2010—Some agencies under the Obama administration have energetically laid out a clear rulemaking agenda, while others have been stymied by a variety of factors, according to a new OMB Watch report. The report, The Obama Approach to Public Protection: Rulemaking, was released today and evaluates the regulatory activity of several environmental, worker safety, and consumer protection agencies within the federal government.

The Obama administration’s rulemaking record reflects a philosophical change from the Bush administration: agencies are more proactive and clearly recognize government’s responsibility to protect the public, the report says. At the same time, the administration has fallen short of the high expectations set for it, both in addressing public need through regulation and in changing the cumbersome rulemaking process.

The report asserts that the Obama administration has begun to restore agency resources and leadership. However, rebuilding the agencies will take years due to the toll of neglect stemming from eight years of an anti-regulatory philosophy.

Rick Melberth, Director of Regulatory Policy at OMB Watch, said, "OMB Watch felt it was important to evaluate the Obama administration's approach to public protections and the regulatory process at the mid-term point. We've seen real progress by this administration, and especially by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in repairing some of the damage that was done during the Bush administration." For example, agencies like the EPA have addressed some of the "midnight regulations" finalized in the waning days of the previous administration.

Melberth added, "Other rulemaking bodies have gotten off to a slower start, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which have seen some successes but have also been plagued by delays in filling appointed leadership positions due to foot-dragging on nominations in the Senate."

Matt Madia, regulatory policy analyst at OMB Watch and lead author of the report, pointed out that a barrage of harsh attacks from the president's political opponents has also impeded the Obama administration's ability to protect the public. Madia said, "Conservatives and business leaders have been criticizing the Obama administration for rapidly expanding the regulatory state. This exaggeration and negative spin on the president's record obscures the complexity of rulemaking within agencies and ignores the basic premise that regulation is necessary to prevent crises and keep people safe."

The report also highlights unforeseen events that have disrupted the plans of several rulemaking agencies. "At times, especially in 2010, external events have wrested the administration’s regulatory agenda from its control," the report says. It continues, "The BP oil spill disaster, the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine, and the recall of millions of Toyota vehicles, among other events, have consumed agency resources and attention. The events themselves color the administration’s reputation while preventing agencies from fully crafting a record of their choosing."

The Obama Approach to Public Protection: Rulemaking is the first in a series of three reports designed to gauge the Obama administration's commitment to implementing effective public protections and reforming the federal regulatory process to make it more transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs of the American people.

The report is available in PDF and browser-based e-book formats at

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OMB Watch is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest. Find OMB Watch on Facebook and Twitter.

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