Regulating in the Dark: Examining Bush Midnight Regulations
Conventional wisdom holds that presidents’ powers quickly evaporate the moment they are voted out of office. Members of Congress and even career executives within federal agencies have little reason to heed a lame-duck president’s advice or fear retaliation. Consequently, a lame-duck president’s ability to push legislation through Congress or enact political priorities greatly diminishes. This view, however, underestimates the arsenal of political tools at the president’s disposal. In the absence of congressional cooperation, outgoing administrations turn to executive orders, memoranda, and regulations to pursue their political priorities. Research indicates that they make extensive use of their arsenal to promote a favored political agenda.
As presidential terms near their end, midnight regulations often resurface in the public discourse. The Clinton administration was criticized for publishing a record number of regulations in its final days. George W. Bush admini