WASHINGTON – President Obama's effort to roll back costly regulations that are not needed could save more than $10 billion over five years, but critics say that's a drop in the bucket.
A total of 26 federal agencies produced final plans that include more than 500 possible changes, including more than 100 at the Transportation Department— the lone agency run by a Republican, former congressman Ray LaHood.
Congressional Republicans, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have led the criticism of the Obama administration for piling on regulations they say will cost businesses billions of dollars. Tops on their list: the health care and financial overhauls of 2010 and a pending change in ozone standards sought by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Acknowledging those concerns, Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said Tuesday that the average year produces about $5 billion in new regulations. During the first two years of Obama's presidency, he said, the cost burden of new regulations was lower than in the last two years under George W. Bush.
Obama announced the look-back on regulations in January. The result: more than 800 pages with more than 500 proposed changes. The savings: more than $4 billion in the bank or in process, with an additional $6 billion planned.
The changes "are going to make a real difference to the American people," Sunstein said.
Among the examples of rules rollbacks in the works are:
•Allowing doctors to practice "tele-medicine" in rural areas.
•Escalating Pentagon contract payments to up to 60,000 small businesses.
•Changing export rules and visa practices at the State Department.
Republicans pounced on the White House announcement as inadequate. "The results are underwhelming," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
The GOP-controlled House of Representatives plans to tackle regulations when it returns to Washington in September. Lawmakers want to crack down on the EPA and the National Labor Relations Board while requiring congressional approval of any regulation that would have a significant impact on the economy.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was slightly more optimistic, but it withheld its full endorsement. "The administration's findings and determinations, on their own, are a worthy effort at making technical changes to the regulatory process," the chamber's Bill Kovacs said.