Wielding a pair of gold scissors, President Donald Trump on Thursday literally cut a strip of red tape, a move intended to symbolize his administration’s effort to slash regulations on businesses.
Trump signed a Jan. 30 executive order directing that for every new federal regulation implemented, two must be rescinded.
“Instead of eliminating two old regulations for every new regulation, we have eliminated 22. Twenty-two — that’s a big difference,” Trump told reporters Thursday, without detailing the regulations that had been cut. “We aimed for two-for-one, and in 2017 we hit 22-for-one.”
In a statement released after Trump’s remarks, the White House said agencies have issued 67 deregulatory actions while imposing only three new regulations.
The president insisted the current regulations in place “do the job better than all of the other regulations, and they allow us to build and create jobs and do what we have to do.” He said his administration is reducing the size, scope and cost of federal regulations, which he maintained has already yielded “incredible results.”
Ever the showman, the former reality TV star had an aide unfurl a regulatory chart. “Chris is not tall enough for this chart, and neither is anybody else,” the president said, referring to White House aide Chris Liddell.
“This is the process that you had to go through to get permits for a highway or a roadway,” the president continued as Liddell unfurled more of the yards-long chart. “And it would take many years. Many, many years, right, Chris?”
Trump said the chart, which he’s displayed before, “really explains what a disaster it is” for federal agencies to get plans approved: “We want to take that process down to maybe one year.”
Not to be limited to simply reusing an old prop, Trump called for cutting “the red tape” and did just that.
“This is what we have now,” the president said, gesturing toward stacks of paper that appeared to be more than 6 feet tall. “This is where we were in 1960,” he continued, this time motioning toward much smaller, shin-high stacks of paper. Both stacks were connected by ceremonial red tape from the bottom of one stack to the top of the other. Reporters could not tell what was actually on the papers.
“And when we’re finished, which won’t be in too long a period of time, we will be less than where we were in 1960, and we will have a great regulatory climate, OK?” Trump said.
At a briefing with reporters at the White House later in the day, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs appeared to walk back Trump’s “1960” prediction.
“I think returning to 1960 levels would likely require legislation,” said Neomi Rao, the administrator of OIRA. “I think some of that would certainly require legislation.”
She also appeared to throw some cold water on Trump’s claim that the administration has “cut more regulations that any president in history — by far, it’s not even a contest.”
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Rao said “it’s hard to measure what that is.”
“Under Reagan, my understanding is that they had years of net reductions, but I’m not sure that there has been. … I don’t think there has been anything like this since Reagan, at least,” she added.
The White House added that the administration will release a “detailed look” at its plan to roll back regulations on Thursday. According to the White House, the administration has withdrawn, delayed or made inactive nearly 1,600 regulations this year, though Rao clarified that the 67 deregulatory actions represents moves that have actually been completed.