The Obama administration "systematically" delayed enacting a series of rules on health care and the environment ahead of the 2012 elections, The Washington Post reported Saturday based on documents and interviews obtained by the news agency.
"The Obama administration has repeatedly said that any delays until after the election were coincidental and that such decisions were made without regard to politics," the Post reports. "But seven current and former administration officials told The Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama’s top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection."
According to the Post, the deliberate stalling meant that the proposed rules were either postponed or never issued.
Some of the waylaid policies included elements of the Affordable Care Act as well as a number of environmental policies including regulations for lower-pollution vehicles, rules on coal ash disposal, water pollution rules for streams and wetlands, air emissions from industrial boilers and cement kilns, and carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.
The Post reports:
Previous White House operations have weighed in on major rules before they were officially submitted for review. But Jeffrey Holmstead, who headed the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in the George W. Bush administration, said the effort was not as extensive as the Obama administration’s approach.
“There was no formalized process by which you had to get permission to send them over,” Holmstead said, referring to rules being submitted to the White House.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, a former official said that only two managers had the authority to request a major rule in 2012: then-administrator Lisa P. Jackson and deputy administrator Bob Perciasepe. Perciasepe and OIRA’s director at the time, Cass Sunstein, would have “weekly and sometimes semi-weekly discussions” to discuss rules that affected the economy, one said, because they had political consequences, the person said.
“As we entered the run-up to the election, the word went out the White House was not anxious to review new rules,” the former official said.
The Washington Post report is bolstered by a new study from the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), independent agency that advises the federal government on regulatory issues, which found that internal reviews of proposed regulatory changes “took longer in 2011 and 2012 because of concerns about the agencies issuing costly or controversial rules prior to the November 2012 election.”