The Senate’s recent move to change filibuster rules gives President Barack Obama’s current batch of nominees a cakewalk through the Senate confirmation process. But there’s also another side effect of the rule change: It clears the way for easier implementation of the President’s broader second-term regulatory agenda.
As Senate Democrats moved to change rules in the upper chamber to lower the 60-vote threshold for Senate confirmation of Obama appointments, Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) complained that the Senate was being turned into “a rubber stamp for any President.”
And now, with the President’s nominees to the powerful District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals on the easy street to confirmation, so is Obama’s regulatory agenda. The court is often the place where battles are waged over controversial rule changes for rules imposed by Federal agencies imposed by the executive.
In recent years, the D.C. Appeals court has dealt blows to the Obama regulatory agenda in disputes over a number of the President’s new financial and environmental regulations. The Senate’s rule change comes at a time when a groundswell of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations are set to take hold as well as court battles over provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and Obamacare.
On Tuesday, just before Thanksgiving, the Obama Administration released a unified regulatory agenda providing details about a number of new heavy-handed regulations that could be coming down the pike.
The agenda, which drew criticism for its timing just as Congress recessed for the holiday, included 134 major and minor regulatory changes for the EPA alone.
Much of the new environmental regulation comes from the Administration’s doubling down on climate change, which is seen by many people as a last ditch effort by the President to create a second-term legacy.
“The proposed standards, if finalized, will establish achievable limits of carbon pollution per megawatt hour for all future units, moving the nation towards a cleaner and more efficient energy future,” the agency said in its agenda. “In 2014, EPA intends to propose standards of performance for greenhouse gas emissions from existing and modified power plant sources.”
Some of the newly proposed EPA regulations could even expand the government’s ability to encroach upon Americans’ private property because of an expansion of the Clean Water Act.
“A draft rule obtained by the Science Committee is a massive expansion of EPA regulatory authority over private property, giving the agency jurisdiction over almost all man-made and natural streams, lakes and ponds in the U.S.,” wrote Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) earlier this month. “[S]uch a power grab undermines states’ rights and increases federal control of private property that ‘could lead to the EPA telling us what to do in our own back yard.’”
Unfortunately for Americans opposed to Obama’s hefty regulatory agenda, Senate Democrats have effectively removed a major aid to conservative members of the Senate to fight on behalf of constituents in opposition to the new regulations.
“It removes one set of barriers to having regulations in place,” Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, told The Hill.