WASHINGTON — Facing the prospect that President Trump could lose his re-election bid, his cabinet is scrambling to enact regulatory changes affecting millions of Americans in a blitz so rushed it may leave some changes vulnerable to court challenges.
The effort is evident in a broad range of federal agencies and encompasses proposals like easing limits on how many hours some truckers can spend behind the wheel, giving the government more freedom to collect biometric data and setting federal standards for when workers can be classified as independent contractors rather than employees.
In the bid to lock in new rules before Jan. 20, Mr. Trump’s team is limiting or sidestepping requirements for public comment on some of the changes and swatting aside critics who say the administration has failed to carry out sufficiently rigorous analysis.
Some cases, like a new rule to allow railroads to move highly flammable liquefied natural gas on freight trains, have led to warnings of public safety threats.
Every administration pushes to complete as much of its agenda as possible when a president’s term is coming to an end, seeking not just to secure its own legacy but also to tie the hands of any successor who tries to undo its work.
But as Mr. Trump completes four years marked by an extensive deregulatory push, the administration’s accelerated effort to put a further stamp on federal rules is drawing questions even from some former top officials who served under Republican presidents.
“Two main hallmarks of a good regulation is sound analysis to support the alternatives chosen and extensive public comment to get broader opinion,” said Susan E. Dudley, who served as the top White House regulatory official during the George W. Bush administration. “It is a concern if you are bypassing both of those.”
Administration officials said they were simply completing work on issues they have targeted since Mr. Trump took office in 2017 promising to curtail the reach of federal regulation.
“President Trump has worked quickly from the beginning of his term to grow the economy by removing the mountain of Obama-Biden job-killing regulations,” Russell Vought, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees regulatory policy, said in a statement.
If Democrats take control of Congress, they will have the power to reconsider some of these last-minute regulations, through a law last used at the start of Mr. Trump’s tenure by Republicans to repeal certain rules enacted at the end of the Obama administration.
But the Trump administration is also working to fill key vacancies on scientific advisory boards with members who will hold their seats far into the next presidential term, committees that play an important role in shaping federal rule making.
Few of the planned shifts have drawn more scrutiny and criticism than a Labor Department proposal to set federal standards for defining when a worker is an independent contractor or an employee, a step that could affect millions of workers.
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