Eleventh Hour: The Politics of Policy Initiatives in Presidential Transitions

By David M. Shafie | Go to book overview

5 George H. W. Bush

Twilight Time for the Deregulation Revolution

President George H. W. Bush began 1992 in a place he should perhaps have avoided: in chilly New Hampshire campaigning to fend off a primary challenge to his own renomination. His popularity had fallen precipitously over the past year, the economy was in recession, and he was facing criticism for breaking his pledge not to raise taxes. In addition to an icy reception from the conservative wing of his party, Bush received a cold critique from former OMB director James Miller III, who dubbed him the “regulatory president” because of the increase in rules promulgated during the first three years of his term.1 Deregulation was the issue that built his reputation in the Reagan White House, and Bush made it a theme throughout his presidency. After campaigning on a platform of continuing Reagan’s policies, he tangled with congressional Democrats who sought to reverse White House control over agency rulemaking. He pushed back against an assertive Congress by creating the Council on Competitiveness, chaired by Vice President Quayle, and empowered the council to review regulations and to advocate further regulatory relief. Bush had a record of domestic policy achievement that appealed to moderate voters, but hundreds of new regulations were required to implement the centrist legislation he helped enact. For example, the EPA was preparing to write more than 200 new regulations for hazardous air pollutants, as required by Title III of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments.2 Thus a major accomplishment now looked like a liability in an election year. After arguing during the Reagan years that regulations suppressed economic growth, Bush found himself in an awkward position.


The Reluctant Regulatory President

Bush had walked a fine line when running to succeed Reagan four years earlier. He made campaign pledges to deliver a stronger Clean Air Act and promised

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