Obama to secure legacy through last-minute ‘midnight’ regulations


Midnight regulations are an outgoing president’s last chance to put his final stamp on the presidency and bind his successors hands.

These regulations are termed such because they are introduced between the November election and the January inauguration. Due to a loophole in US law the midnight regulations are included into the Code of Federal Regulations and enjoy the same status as laws.

According to media reports the outgoing president is mulling over 98 such regulations that cover oil industry and air pollution all the way to helping highly skilled immigrant workers to obtain green cards.

Politico reported that 17 of the regulations of the final 98 under review are considered ‘economically significant’ and would have an economic impact of approximately $100 million annually.

While Obama is pushing the midnight regulations it is reported that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned him not to do so.

‘Should you ignore this counsel, please be aware that we will work with our colleagues to ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions – and, if appropriate, overturns them’ – McCarthy wrote to Obama on November 15th.

Meanwhile the President-elect Donald Trump said earlier, he will cancel every regulation that kills jobs and bloats government.

While the outgoing president enjoys the power to introduce midnight regulations, his successor has the power to reverse them, albeit not so easily as it requires a lengthy rule-making process.

Besides, Congress too could effectively overturn the midnight regulations by passing statutory mandates, but that can backfire and the unwanted regulations could end up being passed into law.

The final tool available to overturn regulations is the Congressional Review Act, which has been used all but once. It allows 60 days for Congress to review and overturn regulations enacted by federal agencies.

It remains to be seen, if Obama’s midnight regulations will stand the test of time, or be Trumped in infancy.