“It’s hard to see how an administration that celebrates its record of expansive, often intrusive regulations will be capable of calming small businesses who feel besieged by Washington’s expanding reach, especially when the same regulators who have written rules that stifle economic growth are now being asked to identify and eliminate them,” a top House Republican aide said.
But a senior Democratic aide said that by going on offense on the issue, Obama makes it difficult for Republicans to criticize him, given how many of them campaigned on regulatory reform in the last election cycle.
“Go back and look at how many of the incoming Republican freshmen in the House ran on a platform of ‘cutting the red tape’ to help businesses. I’d venture, nearly all of them,” the aide said.
Senate Democrats hailed the president’s move as sending a signal to the business community that Democrats are prepared to help it crawl out from under unnecessary paperwork and outdated regulations.
“I applaud their efforts to make tackling this problem a priority,” said Senate Small Business Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who said she will push for a full repeal of the IRS Form 1099 regimen that requires businesses to report even small vendor purchases. The requirement is set to take effect in 2012.
Sen. Mark Warner, who chairs the Budget Committee’s Task Force on Government Performance, called Obama’s move “a promising first step” toward better government oversight but said the administration should “act even more aggressively” on regulatory reform.
“No one is talking about reducing or removing effective protections of the public’s health and safety, but we need to be able to get rid of the old, stale regulations that inhibit economic growth,” the Virginia Democrat said.
During a Tuesday conference call, senior administration officials dismissed the idea that Obama’s overtures to the business community should be interpreted as him taking a more centrist approach as he enters an era of divided government.
“The notion that it’s left or right or center is less relevant,” one official said. “The point is, are we doing what’s best for the American people? I would hope that that’s something people of the left and right ultimately agree on.”
A prominent Republican strategist begged to differ.
The president’s latest move is “more of the post-election pattern we’re seeing of him trying to pivot back to the center,” said the strategist, citing the bipartisan tax package passed in December and recent White House personnel moves as proof of the president’s move to the middle.
“The real issue is how does the GOP respond,” he added. “They should consider ‘seeing him and raising the ante’ by aggressively highlighting reams of new federal regulations that are not only ‘dumb’ (in his words) but can clearly be shown to chill job growth. Seems to me that the Obama executive order gives them the perfect opening to do just that.”