Midnight Regulations FAQ
1. What are midnight regulations and why are they important?
At the end of every presidential administration, regulatory activity spikes during the “midnight” period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. This surge is evident even when an incumbent is reelected, and it is considerably more pronounced if the administration changes.
Outgoing administrations often use this window to pushthrough sweeping and controversial regulations. Once finalized, regulationsprove hard to repeal. During the spike, the quality of the agencies’ regulatory analysis drops and regulatory oversight by Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) weakens. As a result, federal agencies produce ineffective regulations and waste public resources.
2. How does Mercatus’s Regulatory Report Card relate to the midnight regulations phenomenon?
The Mercatus Regulatory Report Cards provide a benchmark of analytical quality. They offer thorough assessments of the effectiveness of all economically significant regulations, according to government-established criteria. Using report card data, Mercatus scholars Patrick McLaughlin and Jerry Ellig have found that non–midnight regulations received an average score of 34 of 60 total points, whereas midnight regulations scored on average only 26.2 points—a significant drop in analytical quality.
3. How does Mercatus determine what is a potential midnight regulation?
The list of potential midnight regulations contains all economically significant rules that were proposed by executive branch agencies after President Obama was inaugurated, but have not yet been finalized. The list refers only to “prescriptive” regulations that impose mandates or prohibitions; it omits budget regulations that implement federal spending or revenue collection programs.
4. How reliable are the Report Card evaluations?
Click here to see a statistical evaluation of the consistency of ratings across different raters.