Published for The Corner at National Review Online, September 16, 2011

Friday’s Washington Post ran a “Fact Checker” column that awarded “three Pinocchios” to Speaker John Boehner for saying that “the Executive Branch has 219 new rules in the works that will cost our economy at least $100 million.” Perhaps it is testimony to what a confusing behemoth the federal bureaucracy has become, but the Post column appears not to understand how the federal government’s rulemaking system actually works: Whatever the complaints about nuance, the Speaker’s comments were fundamentally right.

For more than 15 years, an executive order issued by President Clinton has required that, twice each year, federal agencies and OMB prepare a “unified regulatory agenda” that lists “all regulations under development or review” (Executive Order 12866, paragraph 4(b)). That agenda is publicly available at It is a standard reference used by agencies, academics, regulated parties, and others in the public who are interested in regulation. It currently lists 4,257 rules.

The regulatory agenda categorizes the various rules in a number of ways, one of which is whether the planned rule is “major” or not. In general, the major rules tend to be the most costly ones. The statutory definition of a “major rule” is:

Full post here

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