Beating Biden’s Day One Freeze Sparks Stampede to Lock in Rules


·         Federal Register seeing ‘unusually high volume’ of documents

·         Biden has promised to halt unpublished regulations after inauguration


Allyson Versprille, Bloomberg Law

Jan. 13, 2021


The rush to get last-minute regulations out before President-elect Joe Biden halts any rules not in place before his inauguration exacerbates a logjam at the federal government’s daily journal.


The stakes are high: Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in late December that Biden will issue a memo effective on Inauguration Day to halt so-called “midnight regulations” that aren’t yet official. The process of rolling back already effective regulations generally requires either a time-consuming rulemaking effort in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act or, for more recently-issued rules, Congress to pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act.


The regulatory agenda for the Trump administration’s last days includes wrapping up implementation of the 2017 tax law and politically contentious rules out of the Labor Department and the EPA. Locking in those policy changes means working with the Office of the Federal Register, which publishes the official daily journal of the federal government, to get thousands of pages of final rules edited and published by Jan. 20.


The normal processing time to get a regulation published is three business days, according to Miriam Vincent, a staff attorney in the office’s Legal Affairs and Policy Division. But Vincent told Bloomberg Tax that longer, more complex rules are taking more time than normal to publish thanks to an “unusually high volume” of documents filed since Jan. 1, compounded by emergency pandemic-related documents.


In order to cut down on delays, Vincent said the Office of the Federal Register worked with agencies on best practices for expediting review of their rules and temporarily reassigned employees from other agencies to review documents.


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