Rolling Back U.S. Regulations Will Test One Scholar’s Finesse

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She is the founder of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason, which is affiliated with the law school and has been a beneficiary of the donation from the Charles Koch Foundation. Ms. Rao started the center two years ago at a time of growing scholarly intrigue about the regulatory process and the authority of federal agencies to set and enforce rules, a section of the law that rose to prominence during the New Deal era.

Regulatory decisions under President Barack Obama, who was among the most prolific authors of major regulations in presidential history, heightened the interest among conservative academics, who questioned whether agencies had overstepped their constitutional bounds.

Ms. Rao was an easy pick for Republicans for the White House role, but she also won the backing of a bipartisan group of eight former administrators of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

“I have a lot of concerns about what this administration is going to do in regulatory areas,” said one of them, John Spotila, who led the office during the Clinton administration. But, he said, “I don’t start with the conviction that Neomi is bad, and anybody Trump picks is going to be horrible and we are doomed.”

He added, “Maybe Neomi will surprise us.”

Even before Ms. Rao begins, the regulatory rollback is well underway. Mr. Trump has issued a series of executive orders mandating a reduction of regulatory burdens on everyone from bankers and energy companies to small businesses and farmers. Federal agencies have been busy too: The Environmental Protection Agency is already taking steps to undo more than 30 environmental rules.

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