Midnight Regulations

Summary

At the end of every presidential administration, regulatory activity spikes during the “midnight” period between presidential election day and Inauguration Day. This surge is evident even when an incumbent is reelected, and it is considerably more pronounced if the administration changes. Outgoing administrations often use this window to push through sweeping and controversial regulations. Once finalized, regulations prove hard to repeal. During the spike, the quality of the agencies’ regulatory analysis drops and regulatory oversight by Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) weakens. As a result, federal agencies produce ineffective regulations and waste public resources.

Mercatus scholars analyze this phenomenon, conduct regulatory impact analysis of potential midnight regulations, and weigh in on the what the surges of midnight regulations mean for the entire regulatory process.