At House Oversight Hearing, A Call for Trump to Abandon the Pillars of His Assault on Safeguards

James Goodwin

Oct. 24, 2017

Today, I will testify before two subcommittees of the House Oversight Committee at a hearing that I hope will provide a critical examination of the Trump administration's so-called "Regulatory Reform Task Forces." Created by Trump's Executive Order 13777, these task forces are essentially designed to be "hit squads" embedded at each agency with the goal of carrying out the Trump administration's assault on public safeguards from within. In my testimony, I provide a comprehensive critique of the task forces, as well as Executive Orders 13771 and 13777, which they are charged with implementing. Ultimately, I conclude that the orders should be repealed and the task forces be disbanded. 

In my testimony, I highlight four fatal flaws with the task forces and the work they do. These flaws include: (1) the public harms they will create; (2) their lack of a rational policy basis; (3) their continuing disregard of fundamental norms of administrative law; and (4) their intractable implementation problems. 

One of the most egregious problems with the task forces is that from the beginning, their operations have "been marked by a distinct lack of transparency and balanced public participation, rendering them susceptible to abuse by narrow interests." My testimony points out that this troubling lack of transparency and meaningful opportunities for public participation should be of particular concern to Congress: 

Fidelity to these principles is also essential to ensuring that agencies are dutifully fulfilling the missions that Congress has set out for them in their authorizing statutes. Transparency assists Congress in performing its oversight activities more effectively, while public participation serves as a mechanism for connecting the abstract goals that Congress has articulated in statutes to the practical realities of the world in which their implementing regulations will give life to those goals. Therefore, Congress in particular has an especially strong interest in ensuring that regulatory actors comport with the principles of transparency and public participation. And Congress in particular should be especially outraged when regulatory actors defy those principles. 

Recognizing that President Trump is unlikely to abandon these task forces, my testimony concludes by calling on Congress to conduct rigorous oversight of the task forces' work in implementing Executive Orders 13771 and 13777. I outline some ideas on what this oversight might entail, including the following:

  • Making full use of their oversight and information gathering authorities to learn more about the individual task forces and the work they are doing;  
  • Monitoring the deregulatory actions the Trump administration is carrying out – whether or not such actions are being undertaken explicitly in accordance with the requirements of Executive Orders 13771 and 13777 – to ensure they are complying with the applicable procedural safeguards that serve to guide administrative action;  
  • Taking appropriate and effective responses whenever they identify potential instances of agencies failing to abide by their administrative law responsibilities when undertaking deregulatory actions, with such responses including the use of targeted agency letters, Government Accountability Office or Inspector General investigations, hearings, or other appropriate oversight tools; and  
  • Investigating on an ongoing basis other matters of critical importance that are relevant to the work of the Trump administration's regulatory task forces, such as whether this work is generally comporting with basic administrative law principles of transparency and meaningful public participation. 

To learn more about the Trump administration's assault on public safeguards, including the regulatory task forces and Executive Orders 13771 and 13777, see here.

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