WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has told federal agencies that they have until tomorrow to propose any new regulations, a move intended to avoid the rush of rules issued by previous administrations on their way out the door.
The White House has also declared that it will generally not allow agencies to issue any final regulations after Nov. 1, nearly three months before Bush relinquishes power.
While the White House called the deadlines "simply good government," some legal specialists said the policy would ensure that rules the administration wanted to be part of Bush's legacy would be less subject to being overturned by his successor. Moreover, they said, the deadlines could allow the administration to avoid thorny proposals that are expected to come up in the next few months, including environmental and safety rules that have been in the regulatory pipeline for years.
Many regulations do not take effect until 60 days after they have been issued, and a new president can try to postpone or revise them. After Bush took office in 2001, for example, he froze hundreds of pending regulations issued by the administration of Bill Clinton. Clinton, in turn, had imposed a similar moratorium on last-minute regulations issued by the first President Bush.
Many officials in government agencies said they were caught unaware by the White House's order, issued May 9. Some officials described a flurry of activity as they sought to get proposals approved for publication in the Federal Register by June 1.
"There are good-government reasons to do what they are doing," said Sally Katzen, the top regulatory aide to Clinton from 1993 to 1998. "But it has the added advantage of providing an excuse for not doing something they don't want attributed to them, and for speeding up the things they want to lock in before the next administration."
The highly unusual directive was outlined in a memorandum that Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff, issued to agency heads without public announcement.
The government should "resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months," Bolten wrote. "We must recognize that the burden imposed by new regulations is cumulative and has a significant effect on all Americans."