The Biden administration must act quickly to repair the damage.
By Neil Eggleston and Alexa Kissinger
The authors are lawyers who served in the administration of President Barack Obama. Mr. Eggleston was the White House counsel from 2014 to 2017. Ms. Kissinger was a special assistant to Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, from 2013 to 2015.
Of all the urgent tasks facing the Biden administration, among the most pressing is to unwind former President Donald Trump’s four-year effort to “deconstruct the administrative state.”
From headline-grabbing policies like caging children at the southern border to stealth rollbacks of climate and environmental regulations, politicizing the role of science and leaving hundreds of key political appointments vacant during a pandemic, the consequences of the Trump administration’s governing philosophy will take swift, sustained and systemic efforts to mend.
In the dwindling months of his presidency, Mr. Trump pushed through a series of so-called midnight rules, surreptitiously sliding politically controversial and unpopular legacy items under the wire.
These recent rules, for example, would expand the methods of execution in federal death cases to include electrocution and death by firing squad. They broaden the definition of “independent contractors,” allowing gig economy companies to avoid providing benefits and safety protections to their workers. They prevent immigration judges from using their discretion to close immigration cases and halt deportations, and allow federal contractors to claim a religious exemption to discriminate in hiring. They shield companies from liability for killing migratory birds and effectively ban certain methods of scientific research in the drafting of public health rules.
Although the practice has historically been deployed by presidents of both parties, Mr. Trump turned it into a sport, finalizing more rules in his last year than any other modern president and even bypassing statutory waiting periods. Between Election Day and Inauguration Day alone, the Trump administration issued 53 new rules.
Faced with this catalog of harm, the new administration has wasted no time. Just hours after being sworn in, President Biden took bold action to freeze a litany of final and pending agency regulations and signed a bevy of executive orders reversing Trump-era policies.
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