Executive Order on Federal Regulations Contravenes the Rule of Law
President Trump’s executive order issued on Monday requiring elimination of two regulations per each single new regulation issued represents a sound-bite approach to governing that is irresponsible and contrary to the rule of law. “The stated purpose of the order – to reduce business costs – is not only inappropriately one-sided but also contradicts many of the laws that require agencies to issue regulations. If carried out, this order would likely result in harm to the health, safety, working conditions, housing quality, and other aspects of the lives of farmworkers and their children. The ill-considered executive order should be withdrawn,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice.
A President may not and should not simply order federal agencies to withdraw existing regulations before issuing new regulations to achieve a numerical goal. Regulations are not a numbers game; they are a way this nation carries out the rule of law. Congress passes legislation that often delegates to federal agencies the obligation to take action through regulations to achieve specified purposes and goals. After giving the public and stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the wisdom and legality of a proposal, agencies must publish their reasoning and provide evidence to back up their regulatory decisions.
The President has the power under many laws to revise or even eliminate regulations, but agencies must do so in accordance with law and based on sound policy and facts.
The invalidity of the Executive Order is also evident from the President’s stated goal of helping businesses large and small; under our Constitution and our laws, regulations may not be evaluated simply on the basis of whether they help business or not. It may be profitable for some businesses to spray toxic pesticides on fields without regard to whether workers are in the field or children are playing on school grounds adjacent to the field, but that should not be the motivation for withdrawing regulations when issuing new rules on other topics.
If federal agencies were forced to comply with this Executive Order, chaos could occur throughout the government on a wide range of issues. These issues include regulations that support safety of food, vehicles, airlines, workplaces, financial institutions, and the environment.