Politics Trumped Policy, Truth for Obama's Reelect

Story documents how the White House slow-walked regulations despite denials.

The Obama White House put politics before governing in 2012, lied about it, and still won't own up to it. That's the bottom line of a Washington Post story that shows how far President Obama has devolved since promising five years ago to change Washington.

Juliet Eilperin opens her story with a bang.

The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety, and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials.

Some agency officials were instructed to hold off submitting proposals to the White House for up to a year to ensure that they would not be issued before voters went to the polls, the current and former officials said.

Then she describes the impact:

The delays meant that rules were postponed or never issued. The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserve federal protection,  pollution controls for industrial boilers and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace.

Eilperin's story quickly reminds readers that the Obama White House is no better than past administrations about shading the truth. It's called "spinning" in Washington, but to voters it's just another reason to doubt the credibility of their government and its leaders. After being caught several times this year misleading the public, Obama's ratings on trustworthiness, once a key to his popularity, are declining.

The Obama administration has repeatedly said that any delays until after the election were coincidental and that such decisions were made without regard to politics. But seven current and former administration officials told The Washington Post that the motives behind many of the delays were clearly political, as Obama's top aides focused on avoiding controversy before his reelection.

Obama's apologists will say that every president plays politics with policy in elections years. Two problems with that. First, Obama promised to be better than the status quo. Second, he's worse.

The number and scope of delays under Obama went well beyond those of his predecessors, who helped shape rules but did not have the same formalized controls, said current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

And yet, even as Eilperin scatters the house of cards, Team Obama keeps spinning.

Administration officials noted that they issued a number of controversial rules during Obama's first term, including limits on mercury emissions for power plants and Medicaid eligibility criteria under the Affordable Care Act.

"OMB works as expeditiously as possible to review rules, but when it comes to complex rules with significant potential impact, we take the time needed to get them right," Cain said.

Eilperin calls them out.

But Ronald White, who directs regulatory policy at the advocacy group Center for Effective Government, said the "overt manipulation of the regulatory review process by a small White House office" raises questions about how the government writes regulations. He said the amount of time it took the White House to review proposed rules was "particularly egregious over the past two years."

Previous White House operations have weighed in on major rules before they were officially submitted for review. But Jeffrey Holmstead, who headed the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation in the George W. Bush administration, said the effort was not as extensive as the Obama administration's approach.

Read the full Post story here.

Read a prescient National Journal story from 2012 "Obama's Administration Sits on Key Regulations."

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