Who you know and whose attention you avoid are often keys to getting big things done politically in Washington.
Consider Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acting Director Russell Vought, who, from the bureaucratic trenches, leads President Donald Trump’s campaign to deregulate the U.S. economy.
A decade ago, Vought was vice president of Heritage Action for America (HAA), the legislative activism component of the Heritage Foundation, the nation’s largest conservative think tank. Jessica Anderson leads HAA today.
Vought and Anderson have crossed paths before.
Before her current tenure at HAA, Anderson was OMB associate director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Strategic Initiatives, where she worked briefly with Vought, then OMB’s deputy director.
As HAA’s executive director, Anderson heads a key group in a powerhouse coalition of conservative advocacy groups known as the “Cut Red Tape Coalition.”
Others in the coalition are Club for Growth (CFG), the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, FreedomWorks, the Job Creators Network, Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party Patriots.
The coalition wants to continue to expand after the CCP virus lockdown ends Trump policies, especially deregulation, that before the pandemic’s onset gave the country its strongest economy in decades.
“Simplifying regulations and removing barriers to innovation helped build our juggernaut economy that preceded COVID-19 and will help bring us back,” CFG President David McIntosh said in an April 23 statement announcing the coalition.
“While liberals are pushing their big government agenda that will only create more dependency on government, this coalition is focused on getting government out of the way of job creators to reignite the economy,” said McIntosh, a former Republican congressman from Indiana, and White House adviser during the first Bush presidency.
With Congress split between Democrats and Republicans, the coalition for now is focused on encouraging officials throughout the Trump administration to continue to expand the deregulatory initiatives that killed more than eight old regulations for each new one, at an annual savings of more than $3,000 for every American household.
“We’re not really relying that much on Congress for this strategy,” Anderson told The Epoch Times on June 24. “Ideally, they would come to the table and do more, but the reality is that there is a logjam, so our focus has been more on administration actions they can take through executive orders.”
To that end, the coalition published a list of recommendations in April, including a number that were implemented via two subsequent Trump orders, Anderson said.
On May 22, Trump issued Executive Order 13924, “Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery,” which directs federal departments and agencies to act by “rescinding, modifying, waiving, or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery” consistent with law and public health.
Under 13924, Vought then issued a June 9 memorandum instructing officials to list all temporary suspensions and modifications, with explanations for whether each should be permanent. He estimated in recent congressional testimony that more than 600 such actions have been counted.
Also on June 9, Trump issued Executive Order 13927 directing departments and agencies to expedite permitting for public infrastructure projects with temporary relaxation of excessively rigorous National Environmental Policy Act regulations.
“We saw that really as the opening salvo,” Anderson said. “The next goal for the coalition is pushing for congressional action. While Trump has done all the right things, Congress needs to step in and give the administration authority to cut more.”
Anderson acknowledged that hyper-partisan remarks like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accusing congressional Republicans of “getting away with the murder of George Floyd” are toxic obstacles to achieving bipartisan reforms. But the coalition is undaunted, she said.
“We’ve been here before; we’ve had a divided Congress; this isn’t necessarily new,” she said, “but the tactics for how you move conservative, free-market reforms through a divided Congress are not new.”
That means “you have to bring to bear the grassroots and put the pressure on Democrat and Republican members alike, so they cannot back down,” she said.
McIntosh says there is deep, bipartisan public support for the deregulation being sought by the coalition.
He cites an April CFG survey of 1,000 likely voters by WPA Intelligence that “found 66% support and 34% oppose Congress giving President Trump the authority to waive costly regulatory requirements on American businesses in order to speed the economic recovery from the coronavirus epidemic. This has the support of 91% of Republicans, 62% of Independents, and 45% of Democrats.”
Trump is constantly criticized for his controversial Twitter posts, but McIntosh, who worked on deregulation issues for then-Vice President Dan Quayle, sees a tactical plus for the coalition there.
“Everything you did of this nature was going to end up on the front page of The Washington Post,” he said, “but with Trump, they’re covering whatever he’s tweeting about, and the agencies can go about their business and not be panicky that they’re not going to be hauled in to explain why they got bad press.”
Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc