The way the Bush administration operates

"By their deeds shall you know them."


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Flaunting and tampering with the regulatory process

Agencies issue rules and regulations to flesh out and implement laws passed by Congress. Agencies must go through an open and transparent process in making regulations, including obtaining comments from the public and justifying what they do in a written record.

The Bush administration has tampered with this process, sometimes illegally, and has made widespread misuse of this process. In many cases, its use of the regulatory process has not been in the interests of the public.


"Secrecy and a free, democratic government don't mix." Harry S. Truman

"I'm the Commander, see ... I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President... [I] don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation." George Bush. See "Bush at War", by Bob Woodward

Below, we outline some of the things this administration has done to the regulatory process and give you details on some specific cases. Some of this material (but not all) is culled from a Report by OMB Watch (pdf file), a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and advocacy center founded in 1983 that "promotes an open, accountable government responsive to community needs". We urge you to read it to see the extent of what this administration is doing. Many of these points can be found in other places on the internet.

1. Illegally freezing the regulatory process 2. Postponing regulations until after the election 3. Forbidding public release of data
4. Tuberculosis testing: an example of increasing secrecy 5. Protecting coal workers 6. Subtle changes

1. Freezing the regulatory process. On inauguration day 2001, the Bush administration issued a directive to stop the processing of all regulations until it had reviewed them. Some of these regulations had already been published and were to go into affect some time later, and their postponement was illegal. Under governing law, an agency may not adopt a proposal to change a rule's effective date, but the directive suggested that agencies not seek public comment. This one directive illustrates the lack of respect this administration would have for the public throughout its tenure.

Hundreds of regulations, some of which had been in the process of development for years and years were stopped in their tracks. No other administration had ever issued such a blanket statement.

 A report of the Majority Staff of the U.S. Senate (pdf file), ordered by Senator Lieberman, discusses this freezing. This report also goes into detail on three regulations that had already been issued and whose suspension was done without the required justification: (1) A rule concerning roadless forests. (2) A rule regulating hardrock mining on public lands. (3) A rule to lower allowable arsenic content in water. Two of these regulations were significantly weakened; the third was adopted only after a long struggle, mainly because the Bush administration could not find the scientific data to back up its case.   To top of page

2. Postponing rules until after the election. A NY Times article on 27 September 2004 reports that the administration is postponing the adoption of regulations because of heavy lobbying by industry. One regulation would sharply restict what can be in cattle feed. The article says that the National Cattlemen's Beef Association broke its nonpartisan tradition and endorsed President Bush for re-election after the postponement. Other postponements have to do with prescription coverage under Medicare, healthcare, the environment, and telecommunication. The message is that big business takes preference over the needs and safety of the public.  To top of page

3. Forbidding public release of data and other business-pleasing changes. A NY Times article from 27 August 2004 says that a new regulation forbids public release of data relating to unsafe motor vehicles. The article goes on to say that the adminsitration has been quietly changing health rules, environmental initiatives, and safety standards in ways that please business but dismay interest groups that represent the public.

4. Tuberculosis testing: an example of increasing secrecy. This item is from an article in  Since 1993, regulations for dealing with tuberculosis prevention have been under developed. The Bush administration stopped the process when it ame into office. Then, on 31 December 2003, it canceled the process completely.

The article says that this is just one of many example of how the Bush administration ahs been using the regulatory process to redirect government out of the public eye. Bush has canceled more regulatory processes that he inherited than he has completed, and many of them have been canceled after years and years of work. The regulatory process has been changed profoundly, and it is has been at the expense of openness and public scrutiny.     top of page

5. Protecting coal workers. An article in the NY Times on 9 August 2004 discusses how the administration is weakening and removing safety regulations for mining coal. One proposal to update technology to better protect workers in two-story-high trucks was scrapped in 2001; since then, 16 miners have been killed in hauling accidents.    To top of page

6. Subtle changes. An article in from 17 August 2004 discusses subtle, almost unnoticed changes in regulations that have profound effects. With regard to mountain-top removal to get at coal, a change reclassifying the debris from objectionable "waste" to legally acceptable "fill" makes it easier to dump mining debris into explicitly protected streambeds. One proposal would scale back the federal government's legal obligation to police state mining agencie, by reclassifying certain duties from "nondiscretionary" to "discretionary".    To top of page