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GOP senators: Sunset all rules waived during the pandemic

Many rules have been waived to help the economy recover from the pandemic. Maybe they should stay off the books for good, the lawmakers suggest

Three of the senators, including Thom Tillis, R-N.C., are in competitive reelection races.
Three of the senators, including Thom Tillis, R-N.C., are in competitive reelection races. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Five Republican senators urged the Trump administration to “sunset all” federal rules waived during the coronavirus pandemic and bump them back to the beginning of the federal rulemaking process.

In a two-page letter to sent Wednesday to Russell Vought, the acting head of the White House budget office, the GOP senators criticize regulations broadly as “burdens,” arguing that the pandemic has made clear the financial damage of federal rules.

Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah; David Perdue, R-Ga.; Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., signed the letter.

Trump’s order

The members’ appeal comes weeks after President Donald Trump issued a sweeping executive order that directed federal agencies to find regulations that “may inhibit economic recovery” and cut, waive or change them.

Both Trump and the senators seized on the idea of cutting or weakening regulations to boost the economy.

[To boost hobbled economy, Trump orders agencies to ease rules]

Since the pandemic grabbed hold of Americans and their lives in mid-March, federal agencies have waived dozens of environmental, health, safety, education, energy, financial and transportation rules or altered how they are enforced.

“Although some argued that these regulations were reasonable before the COVID-19 pandemic, the burden that many of these regulations create for everyday Americans is now abundantly clear,” the senators wrote, adding that they support Trump’s broader efforts to cut regulations since taking office.

The senators urged the White House, “to sunset all federal regulations that have been waived and continue to be waived during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the rules to go back through the regulatory process to determine whether these regulations should be temporary or permanent.”

Federal agencies and the White House, including a unit called the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, decide when to issue rules and what those rules would do, though outside groups often go to court to stop the federal government from finalizing regulations.

Before joining the administration, Vought came from the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which praised Trump’s executive order.

“Freeing our economy from unnecessary government regulation will play a critical role in speeding up our nation’s recovery from COVID-19,” Kay Coles James, president of the foundation, said in a statement after the president issued his order.

Three of the five senators — Perdue and Loeffler in Georgia, and Tillis in North Carolina — are in competitive re-election campaigns.

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