- The Washington Times
Sunday, November 19, 2017

Top-ranking members of the Trump administration gathered at the Federalist Society’s national convention over the weekend to share their progress rolling back the administrative state.

White House counsel Donald F. McGahn said the “ever-expanding regulatory state” is the “greatest threat to the rule of law in our modern society.” Reforming the regulatory process and selecting judges who will enforce the separation of powers are the “two greatest legal issues” facing the administration, he said.

“The president is making fundamental changes to how the regulatory state interacts with the people, and he is selecting judges who will enforce the law as written and respect the separation of powers,” Mr. McGahn said in his remarks on Friday. “The Trump vision of regulatory reform can be summed up in three simple principles: due process, fair notice and individual liberty. The Trump vision of the judiciary can be summed up in two words: originalism and textualism.”

The theme of the 2017 National Lawyer’s Convention, which ran from Thursday to Saturday at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., was “Administrative Agencies and Regulatory State.”

Dozens of panel discussions and lectures examined the way administrative agencies interact with and usurp the powers of the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government. Scholars, lawyers and government officials showed how the administrative state has waded into nearly every political debate imaginable, including: religious liberty, gay and civil rights, environmental and financial regulation.

Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, said President Trump has a different view of the administrative state than his predecessor. Under President Obama, he said, departments had a “blank check” to impose regulations, from the contraceptive mandate to the Waters of the United States, without accountability to the American people.

“The project of regulatory roll-back is well underway under this administration,” Mr. Severino said Thursday. “There have been numerous executive orders requiring the agencies to take a very hard look at what we are doing, the burdens we are imposing, seeing if there are any rules and regulations that are outdated and no longer apply, to see if they are fully justified. We have a two-for-one rule now, where for every federal regulation the agencies have to repeal two. These are all great developments for shutting down the regulatory state.”

Last month, the Trump administration rolled back the birth-control mandate. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the Waters of the United States rule will suffer a similar fate.

“We’re providing regulatory clarity there,” Mr. Pruitt said at the conference Friday. “Two-step process, actually: We’re withdrawing the deficient rule from 2015. That process is ongoing. In fact, it’s almost complete. And then we’ll have a substitute definition sometime in 2018, and that definition will hew to the case law and the text and I believe the intent and purpose of the Clean Water Act with respect to what a water of the United States is going forward.”

Protesters sitting in the audience interrupted Mr. Pruitt’s remarks on several occasions. “You need to uphold this planet!” one of them shouted.

“This is a little bit of an example of what we deal with,” Mr. Pruitt said, drawing laughs.

Upon taking office, Mr. Trump kept his word to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court from a list of candidates hand-picked by the Federalist Society. The president’s eventual selection, Justice Neil Gorsuch, keynoted the lawyer’s conference Thursday night at Union Station.

“Tonight I can report, a person can be both a committed originalist and textualist and be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Justice Gorsuch said at the gala, attended by Justice Samuel Alito and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and prayers through that process.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions commended the president for stacking the judiciary with originalists who will return the branches of government to the boundaries established by the Constitution.

“Elections really do have consequences,” Mr. Sessions said in his address Friday. “President Trump is appointing extremely well-qualified, highly respected judges. Professional, skilled, brilliant. They will be neutral umpires, calling balls and strikes, not taking sides in the game. He’s not appointing politicians or activists looking to advance an agenda, but faithful jurists seeking to apply the law who serve, as their oath says, under the Constitution and laws of the United States, not above it. I know that’s one reason the American people voted for President Trump.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.