Randy's Corner Deli Library

10 November 2008

Bush Rolls Back Regulations


Bush Rolls Back Regulations

Having promised to "sprint to the finish" of his second term and "to remain focused on the goals ahead," President Bush is "working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules" aimed at protecting workers, consumers and the environment, the Washington Post reports. "The administration wants to leave a legacy," said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, "but across the board it means less protection for the public." Indeed, the Bush administration is implementing over 90 new regulations which "would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo." The wide array of new regulations includes proposals to undercut outpatient Medicaid services, weaken the Endangered Species Act, and allow increased emissions from older power plants. In some instances, the administration has allowed federal agencies to circumvent public feedback methods by limiting the period for public comment, "not allowing e-mailed or faxed comments or scheduling public hearings." Transition advisers to President-elect Barack Obama, meanwhile, "have compiled a list of about 200 Bush administration actions and executive orders that could be swiftly undone to reverse White House policies." The kind of regulations they are looking at are those imposed by Bush for "overtly political" reasons, said Dan Mendelson, a former associate administrator for health in the Clinton administration's Office of Management and Budget.

CUTTING BACK MEDICAID: On Friday, the very same day that the Department of Labor announced that the U.S. unemployment rate is at a 14-year high of 6.5 percent, Bush "narrowed the scope of services that can be provided to poor people under Medicaid's outpatient hospital benefit." The new regulation arrives at a time when states are considering limiting Medicaid eligibility and Americans are losing their jobs -- and by extension, employer health benefits. According to the Kaiser Foundation, a 1 percent increase in unemployment results in 1 million more people enrolling in Medicaid and the State's Children's Health Insurance Program, and another 1.1 million more people becoming uninsured. Public hospitals and state officials immediately protested Bush's proposed action, saying it would "reduce Medicaid payments to many hospitals at a time of growing need," the New York Times reports. Ann Clemency Kohler, the executive director of the National Association of State Medicaid Directors, said that "the new rule is a pretty sweeping change from longtime Medicaid policy. Since the beginning of the program, states have been allowed to define hospital outpatient services. We have to question why the rule is being issued now, three days after the election, with a new administration coming in."

GUTTING ENDANGERED SPECIES: In what would be the biggest change to Endangered Species Act since 1998, the Bush administration wants to allow federal agencies "to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants." Currently, federal agencies are required to consult with an independent agency -- the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or the National Marine Fisheries Service -- to determine whether a project would harm an endangered species. As Sharon Guynup of the Baltimore Sun points out, "[T]aking wildlife experts out of the equation eliminates the checks and balances that have kept the [Chesapeake] bay's bald eagles, shortnose sturgeon, Delmarva fox squirrels, piping plovers and other rare creatures from disappearing" and would only encourage agencies to "revert to pre-Endangered Species Act tactics of cutting big projects into a series of small ones that fall under the radar." The draft rules also would also "bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats," the AP reports.

INCREASING POLLUTION: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working on regulations that would allow increased emissions from older power plants while also rolling back existing air quality regulations for national parks and wilderness areas. While "the Clean Air Act requires older plants that have their lives extended with new equipment to install pollution-control technology if their emissions increase," Bush's proposed rule would "allow plants to measure emissions on an hourly basis, rather than their total yearly output. This way, plants could run for more hours and increase overall emissions without exceeding the threshold that would require additional pollution controls," McClatchy reports. The industry-friendly rule -- which the administration tried to implement in 2003, before it "was vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in July"-- is now being opposed by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and Robert Meyers, the assistant administrator in charge of air issues. According to McClatchy, "the EPA official said that concerns in the agency were that the analysis justifying the rule change was weak and the administration didn't plan to make the analysis public for a comment period, as is customary." Three computer models, released by the EPA, have also shown that the proposed rule "would increase carbon dioxide emissions by 74 million tons annually," "roughly equivalent to the total annual CO2 emissions of about 14 average coal-fired power plants."


ENVIRONMENT -- POLLUTION INDUSTRY SAYS WAXMAN LEADERSHIP ON CLIMATE WOULD BE 'SCARY': This week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced his intent to replace Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over global warming legislation. On Thursday, Dingell told WJR Radio's Frank Beckmann that Waxman is an "anti-manufacturing left-wing Democrat" with a "serious lack of understanding of people in the auto industry and manufacturing generally." Representatives of major greenhouse gas-emitting industries have also recoiled at the prospect of Waxman being in charge. R. Bruce Josten, the top lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, "took issue with the idea of a Waxman-led committee given the Californian's support for far more aggressive greenhouse emission limits compared with Dingell," saying, "It's scary, isn't it?" The Chamber's public comments reinforce the anonymous "refining industry insider" who said that "all hell will break loose legislatively" if Waxman wins. The coal lobby has also weighed in on this dispute. Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said that Waxman likely would be "a very slow learner on the importance of coal for affordable energy. It would have been problematic in the best of times to have Mr. Waxman's views prevail."

ADMINISTRATION -- OBAMA TO REVERSE MANY BUSH EXECUTIVE ORDERS: "President-elect Barack Obama is poised to move swiftly to reverse actions that President Bush took using executive authority, and his transition team is reviewing limits on stem cell research and the expansion of oil and gas drilling, among other issues, members of the team said Sunday," the New York Times reports. On his first day in office, for example, Bush issued "the so-called global gag rule...which prohibited taxpayer dollars from being given to international family planning groups that perform abortions and provide abortion counseling." Obama is set to reverse this policy, said Susan Wood, co-chairman of Obama's advisory committee for women's health. "We have been going in the wrong direction and we need to turn it around and be promoting prevention and family-planning services and strengthening public health," Wood said. "There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for Congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," John Podesta, Obama's transition head, said Sunday. With less than three months left in office, Bush is poised to change more than 90 executive rules "[o]n issues ranging from water and air quality to family planning and civil liberties," allowing him "to achieve with the stroke of a bureaucratic pen what they could not get from Congress or the voters."

TECHNOLOGY -- OBAMA HAS OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE FIRST 'WIRED' PRESIDENCY: Throughout his campaign, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) made use of an unprecedented e-mail outreach campaign. Today, the Washington Post notes that "Obama will enter the White House with the opportunity to create the first truly 'wired' presidency,'" and aides "are preparing a major expansion of the White House communications operation, enabling them to reach out directly to the supporters they have collected over 21 months without having to go through the mainstream media." Obama's campaign e-mail list, once rumored to have 5 million supporters, in fact has over 10 million, according to the Post. "[Those backers may be summoned to push reluctant members of Congress to support legislation, to offer feedback on initiatives and to enlist in administration-supported causes in local communities." "The next President can instantly address 16 percent of his national supporters, based on the popular vote. To put it another way, the list dwarfs the audience of all the nightly cable news shows combined," The Nation's Ari Melber notes. The Obama online grassroots effort serves as also can serve a "visible check" on Obama, ensuring he maintains progressive priorities.


Advisers to President-elect Barack Obama "are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials." The plan would make good on Obama's promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, but could require the "creation of a controversial new system of justice." The ACLU has begun an ad campaign pressuring Obama to close Gitmo.

President-elect Obama will rely upon "a trio of Bush appointees" to "tackle the country's most serious challenges." Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael Mullen and FBI director Robert Mueller "will likely stay in place for at least the first year or two of Obama's presidency."

"Reaction to the passage of a measure banning same-sex marriage continued to sweep across California on Sunday," with hundreds of protesters rallying outside the Saddleback Church, whose pastor organized a presidential "faith forum" and backed Prop. 8. "In Pasadena, the pastor of the 4,000-member All Saints Church spoke out against the measure, calling the religious community’s support of it embarrassing."

The federal government announced a second bailout valued at nearly $150 billion for the troubled insurance giant AIG. The new plan calls for the government to "reduce the original $85 billion loan that saved AIG in September to $60 billion, buy $40 billion of preferred shares, and purchase $52.5 billion of mortgage securities owned or backed by the company."

A Democratic source close to Barack Obama "confirmed Sunday that Valerie Jarrett is Obama’s choice to replace him in the Senate.” Jarrett is a long-time personal friend of the Obamas and was a top adviser during the campaign.

Since 2004, the U.S. military "has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere." The secret order -- authorized by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with President Bush's approval -- gave "a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States."

And finally: Move over, Madison, Kennedy, and Reagan. Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha are the hot new names for babies. The "Obama baby boom" has been even more pronounced in Kenya, "particularly in Kisumu, an area in the western part of the country where relatives of Mr. Obama live. From Election Day through Saturday afternoon, 43 children born at the Nyanza Provincial Hospital in Kisumu were named after the Obamas, with 23 boys given the first and middle name Barack Obama and 20 girls named Michelle Obama."

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"The proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact removes language authorizing Iraqi to ask U.S. soldiers to stay beyond 2011 and bans cross-border attacks from Iraqi soil."


ALASKA: Gov. Sarah Palin's (R) "harsh rhetoric while on the national stump...has eroded her support at home."

: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) "expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage."

NEW YORK: Gov. David Paterson (D) "would almost certainly seek billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, as well as midyear reductions in school aid."


THINK PROGRESS: New York Times columnist David Brooks on the conservative movement: "World of pain," "no leaders," "no coherent belief system."

WONK ROOM: PNAC: Gov. Sarah Palin's (R) Pentagon-in-waiting?

TPM ELECTION CENTRAL: An aide to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) claims that stripping him of the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee would be putting politics ahead of the nation's safety.

HULLABALOO: Historian Walter Isaacson claims that everyone in the ideological spectrum agrees on the same "basic goals" in foreign policy.


"I don't think this was a victory for a progressive, or a liberal victory."
-- Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), 11/09/08


"51 percent said government should do more to solve problems, the first time even a narrow majority said so since exit pollsters started asking the question in 1994."
-- AP, 11/08/08, on presidential election exit polls


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