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Obama Inches Closer to Midnight Rules

Still, Beermann concluded that most of the rules implemented in the final days of an administration are routine and were under consideration long before the November election. Often, he wrote, they are the result of an administrative cram to get rules moving that would inevitably fall by the wayside during the next administration.

A complete freeze on rule-making in the final 90 days of an administration is simply not feasible, most experts agree.

His most hard-hitting recommendation — that "no major or potentially controversial rulemakings should be initiated after or close to the date of the election" — still gives administration officials the right to determine which rules to advance.

Dudley, a staunch critic of midnight rules and one of about 50 public members of ACUS, said the recommendations might be insufficient.

"It is hard for the outgoing administration to police itself," she said. "My own experience was that all agencies thought their rules were presidential priorities worthy of an exemption. Every agency thinks that it is necessary to finish their regulations."

The agency prides itself on its bipartisan, policy-oriented focus, and Beermann insisted that the timing of the investigation was not politically motivated.

"It's been in the public consciousness for a long time," he said. But he acknowledged that even a relatively small regulatory body cannot escape the reach of presidential politics.

"If there is a transition this year, it will get to be a big political issue," Beermann said.

An agency subcommittee is set to meet to discuss his report Thursday. If the recommendations are approved, they will then be voted on by all 101 members of the conference at its biennial meeting in June.

While the agency has no authority to enforce its recommendations, the membership includes representatives from each of the government's 50 agencies and has a history of deep government influence.

ACUS estimates that two-thirds of the recommendations it has issued have been implemented, including the negotiated rule-making process in which agency officials and interest groups negotiate the language of a proposed rule before it is published in the Federal Register.

Since the agency was reinstated, it has completed nine projects, several of which are currently being implemented at agencies.

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