The New York Times reported today that Bush updated an executive order that will alter public agencies' ability influence policy. The directive will impact government agencies when they issue policy guidance documents aimed at regulating industries, and as a result public health and the environment as well as civil rights and privacy measures will be effected.
Agencies are tasked with interpreting laws passed by Congress and making policy recommendations that are often non-binding, but can influence -- or as Bush claims, "coerce"-- policy regulation. The executive order, which the White House listed last week in the Federal Register, will give Bush more say over what the agencies publish by putting a political appointee in charge of a regulatory office attached to each agency.
Businesses welcome the executive order, which tries to prevent any "major" recommendations from being issued without significant vetting and oversight. Any regulation that would economically impact a sector by more than $100 million dollars is considered major. Agencies will also need to assess whether their recommendations can be accomplished through market mechanisms, which the White House deems to be the preferable. Bush further undermines potential agency clout by demanding they soften their language in guidance documents and not use "mandatory language". If the proposed regulation is considered potentially onerous to any business interest, the agencies will need to subject their recommendations to public comment, then accommodate the suggestions they receive.
These new rules keep the Bush agenda intact, even when a newly elected Congress might pursue a different ideological approach, for instance when balancing environmental imperatives with business priorities. Impeding the agencies clout by requiring an even greater prioritization of economic interests seems to compromise the mission of public agencies that are charged with assessing science data, health and welfare of citizens. At any rate the move underlines the administration's predilection for business -- sometimes at the expense of public welfare.