Nearly 4000 regulations have made their way through the federal bureaucracy in the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency in a mad dash by the White House to push through government actions affecting everything from gun control to nutritional labeling. With the current administration entering its final months in office, there is precedent that exists for increased regulatory actions executed by outgoing administrations. There are two efforts synonymous with a change in Administration that are worthy of congressional oversight in the Department of Labor. The first is “Midnight Regulations”, which the GOP is mostly powerless in stopping. “Midnight Regulations” are a feature of any lame-duck administration and represent a president’s last opportunity to lock in rules on legacy issues. These rules may not receive the adequate review and analysis by agency officials and if rushed through the formal rulemaking process, may not have the same opportunity for public comment. The second is an increase in employment status conversion, also known as “burrowing in”. This occurs when an employee in a federally appointed position is converted to a career position in the executive branch. There are several negative consequences of burrowing in including limiting merit-based, competitive hiring and promotion. There are also clear regulations in place that must be followed when attempting to convert an employee’s status.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said that his party cannot do much because “the framers of the Constitution didn’t give us a lot of tools that didn’t involve a presidential signature to overturn them”. Cornyn said Obama seems to be in a “frenzy mode on his way out the door”. Republicans in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have asked the Education and Labor department secretaries for the number of positions that have been created since January 1, 2016 and a list of all the draft and final rules planned before President Obama leaves office. A letter addressed to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez asks for a response to these questions by October 4.
While the Committee on Education and the Workforce may have broad oversight authority, White House aides in recent weeks have made it clear that Obama will continue to use his legal authorities on whatever he deems important to wrap up before he leaves the Oval Office on Jan. 20. Major regulatory change requires a 60‑day waiting period, meaning Obama theoretically has until November to come up with his to‑do list.