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PolitiFact: Obama order to review rules is not unprecedented

The statement

"What I have done — and this is unprecedented … is I've said to each agency … 'look at regulations that are already on the books and if they don't make sense, let's get rid of them.' "

President Barack Obama, on Wednesday in a news conference

The ruling

We wondered if a systematic review of old regulations was really such an unprecedented effort. And we found it isn't.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton created the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, headed by Vice President Al Gore. Among other things the NPR was tasked with cutting regulatory red tape.

Elaine Kamarck, a special assistant to Gore who managed the project, told us via e-mail: "We conducted, as part of the reinventing government initiative, a regulatory review that resulted in 16,000 pages being cut from the federal register."

James Gattuso, a senior research fellow in regulatory policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Clinton's executive order directed all agencies to regularly review rules.

"That order is still in force, making the Obama directive technically redundant," he said.

And Clinton wasn't the first to initiate comprehensive regulatory review, said Gattuso. In the early 1990s when Gattuso was on the staff of Vice President Dan Quayle, President George H.W. Bush ordered a 90-day (later extended another 120 days) moratorium and review of all existing regulations.

"I was on the vice president's staff at that time working on the initiative and have found the parallels (to now) striking," Gattuso said.

In a Jan. 28, 1992, memo to department and agency heads, Bush wrote: "I ask that each of your agencies set aside a 90-day period, beginning today, to evaluate existing regulations and programs and to identify and accelerate action on initiatives that will eliminate any unnecessary regulatory burden or otherwise promote economic growth."

Dean Baker, a liberal economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, called Obama's comment a "nonsense claim."

"I would question whether President Obama has done more in re-examining existing regulations than prior presidents, and if he has I would ask why he wasted the resources," Baker told us via e-mail.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report on July 16, 2007, states that, "Every president since President Carter has directed agencies to evaluate or reconsider existing regulations."

We rate Obama's statement Pants On Fire.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version, go to

PolitiFact: Obama order to review rules is not unprecedented 06/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 30, 2011 9:03pm]
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