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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 15, 2020

Trump essentially held the line on regulations

Donald Trump promised during his first campaign to slash federal regulations, particularly those passed by President Barack Obama before he took office.

The number of federal regulations essentially remained the same with Trump as president.

On his first day in office, Trump temporarily froze all new regulations, a typical move for an incoming president. He also signed an executive order that requires agencies to repeal two existing regulations in order to pass a new one.

When Trump took office, there were 1,079,651 regulatory restrictions in the U.S. code of federal regulations, said James Broughel, an expert on regulations at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. As of mid-June, the total number was just slightly higher: 1,082,303.

Broughel said that the numbers are a proxy for the number of requirements in the code and count terms such as "shall, must, may not, prohibited and required." Another way to quantify regulations is to look at total pages in the code, and by that metric, it shrunk slightly from 186,374 pages in 2017 to 185,984 pages in 2019.

"By either metric the story is more or less the same — overall the amount of federal regulations is roughly unchanged since President Trump took office," Broughel said. (Broughel is on an advisory board that gives advice to the Department of Energy on energy efficiency standards.) 

While some rules were eliminated by the Trump administration, other rules were being added.

Broughel said the number of federal regulations typically increases during a president's term. 

The Trump administration "had success at slowing the flow of new regulatory activity but hasn't had much success of reducing overall stock of regulations," he said. 

The Trump administration repealed an Obama rule regarding car emissions standards, rescinded guidance on transgender student rights, repealed a rule on net neutrality and rescinded Clean Power Plan, which was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump also took prominent regulatory action, too, such as a change to the public charge rule, longstanding regulations that say immigrants to the United States can be turned away if they are likely to depend on public assistance programs.

"While the direction of this administration is deregulatory with respect to energy and environmental issues, for example, it is decidedly regulatory when it comes to other areas such as immigration," Bridget C.E. Dooling, a research professor with the GW Regulatory Studies Center. Dooling held positions in the federal government during the administrations of Bush, Obama and Trump.

Trump has at times exaggerated his record on how many regulations he has cut. But we found overall he did take many steps to limit new regulations. We rate this promise Compromise. 

Our Sources

Brookings Institution, Deregulation tracker, Accessed June 19, 2020

Washington Post, How Trump is rolling back Obama's legacy, Jan. 20, 2018

New York Times, Trump Says 'No President Has Ever Cut So Many Regulations.' Not Quite. Feb. 23, 2018

Telephone interview, James Broughel, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an adjunct professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School, June 18, 2020

Email interview, Bridget C.E. Dooling, George Washington University research professor, June 19, 2020

Jana Heigl
By Jana Heigl April 5, 2017

Trump pulls back on regulations but no official ban yet

One of President Donald Trump's oft-repeated campaign promises has been to slash federal regulations, especially the "midnight regulations" that former President Barack Obama passed before he left office.

Trump has taken several steps to fulfill this promise.

Only a few hours after the inauguration, he temporarily froze all new regulations, until the administration had time to review them. This is not an uncommon move for an incoming administration. Agencies were instructed to withdraw any new regulations they might have submitted.

He also signed an executive order that requires agencies to repeal two existing regulations in order to pass a new one.

In addition, Trump and congressional Republicans have used the Congressional Review Act, a measure that was rarely used before him, to roll back regulations. The law allows fast-tracked bills for repealing regulations. It dates from 1996 but was was used successfully only once, by President George W. Bush in 2001. Trump, by contrast, has used it a total of 12 times to repeal regulations passed under Obama.

Most recently, he signed House Joint Resolution 37, which repeals the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. The regulation had required companies that contract with the federal government to comply with stricter labor laws.

He also signed House Joint Resolution 44, which repeals the Bureau of Land Management's "Planning 2.0" rule on federal land management. The regulation had allowed the bureau greater control in managing ecological and economic resources.

And he signed House Joint Resolutions 57 and 58 to repeal additional regulations on states and local school systems, such as requirements to assess the quality of teacher preparation programs and state plans.

Clearly, Trump has eliminated a number of regulations, and it doesn't seem like new regulations are going forward. That said, he had vowed to put a temporary ban on new regulations, and we haven't seen a formal ban yet. Until he does, we rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

USA TODAY, Trump signs four bills to roll back Obama-era regulations, Mar. 27, 2017

The White House, President Donald J. Trump Signs H.J.Res. 37, H.J.Res.44, H.J.Res. 57, and J.J.Res. 58 into Law, Mar. 27, 2017

The White House, President Trump Eliminates Job-Killing Regulations, Mar. 30, 2017

The White House, Executive Order Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, Jan. 30, 2017

Politico, Trump signs executive order requiring that for every one new regulation, two must be revoked, Jan. 30, 2017

The Hill, Trump puts Obama regulations on the chopping block, Jan. 31, 2017

CNN politics, Trump puts freeze on new regulations, Jan. 20, 2017

The Obama White House, Executive Order Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces , Jul. 31, 2014

U.S. Congress, House Joint Resolution 37, last accessed on Apr. 4, 2017

U.S. Congress, House Joint Resolution 44, last accessed on Apr. 4, 2017

U.S. Congress, House Joint Resolution 57, last accessed on Apr. 4, 2017

U.S. Congress, House Joint Resolution 58, last accessed on Apr. 4, 2017

The White House, Press Gaggle, Apr. 4, 2017

The White House, Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, Jan. 30, 2017

The White House, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, Jan. 20, 2017

Federal Register, Resource Management Planning,  Dec. 12, 2016

Federal Register, Teacher Preparation Issues, Oct. 31, 2016

Federal Register, Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act- Accountability and State Plans, Nov. 29,2016

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