Disaster Capitalism on steroids’: “Step one: Remove the Inspectors General who keep an eye on wrongdoing at our federal agencies. Step two: Tell the agencies that it’s open season on measures that keep workers, consumers, and the environment safe,” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) tweeted.
An executive order signed by President Trump Tuesday directs agencies to consider what sort of deregulatory action they might take that could spur economic growth.
The order directs agency heads to “identify regulatory standards that may inhibit economic recovery,” highlighting that regulations could be permanently or temporarily lifted.
“Just as we continue to battle COVID-19 itself, so too must we now join together to overcome the effects the virus has had on our economy,” the order states.
“Agencies should address this economic emergency by rescinding, modifying, waiving, or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery.”
The order comes as more than 35 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits amid the economic fallout stemming from the coronavirus.
Trump announced the executive order at a cabinet meeting at the White House, telling Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao the order “gives you tremendous power to cut regulation.”
“And we want to leave it that way,” he said. “In some cases we won’t be able to but in other cases we will.”
The executive order is the latest deregulatory effort from an administration that in its easiest days required agencies to revoke two regulations for every new rule they want to issue.
Some agencies have already loosened requirements amid the pandemic.
A March memo from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alerted industry it would suspend enforcement of environmental laws that require companies to monitor their pollution.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the agency issued the policy as “COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements.”
The agency is now facing lawsuits from both states and environmental groups over the change, but said it would review other regulations as requested by the president.
“EPA is continuing to do its part to address COVID-19 while moving forward with a regulatory reform agenda. We will review the final EO and work to assess which EPA regulations might be available to streamline in order to achieve the goals outlined in the EO,” an agency spokesperson told The Hill in an email, using the abbreviation for executive order.
Congress has already taken extraordinary measures to alleviate the economic damage from the coronavirus, expanding unemployment benefits, and passing a $2 trillion stimulus package offering relief to businesses. Another $3 trillion package was passed by the House last week.
But Republicans seized on the idea that deregulation would be necessary to boost the economy.
Such action would be cross cutting, and could range from financial regulations, environmental protections, agricultural guidelines that affect the supply chain, or virtually any regulation from the numerous government agencies that promulgate rules.
“Every regulation that was waived during this crisis should remain waived and we should begin repealing the most costly of the major regulations that have accumulated over the past decade,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Twitter.
But some Democrats were quick to criticize the president’s move, arguing that it will allow the government to get rid of important protections.
“Step one: Remove the Inspectors General who keep an eye on wrongdoing at our federal agencies. Step two: Tell the agencies that it’s open season on measures that keep workers, consumers, and the environment safe,” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) tweeted.
And conservationists warned that the move could put measures aimed at helping the environment at risk.
Brett Hartl, the government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that Trump is “using the pandemic to slash lifesaving protections for our air, water and wildlife when these safeguards have never been more important.”