New White House Chief of Staff Orders Freeze on New Regulations

January 20, 2021 Updated: January 20, 2021

White House chief of staff Ron Klain ordered a freeze on federal regulations in his first official act on Jan. 20, putting the brakes on any new and pending rules until they can be reviewed by appointees of President Joe Biden.

In a memo sent to the heads of executive agencies and departments, Klain said that rules that have been sent to the Office of the Federal Register but not yet published in the Federal Register should be withdrawn until they are reviewed.

For rules that have been published or otherwise issued but haven’t taken effect, Klain asked the heads of agencies to consider postponing the date on which the rules become effective by 60 days. During the postponement, Klain asked the agencies to consider opening a 30-day comment period.

“For those rules that raise no substantial questions of fact, law, or policy, no further action needs to be taken; and for those rules that raise substantial questions of fact, law, or policy, agencies should notify the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Director and take further appropriate action in consultation with the OMB Director,” the memo states.

Biden’s transition team had advised ahead of time that Klain would issue the memo, describing the measure as a way to halt any last-minute regulations rushed by the Trump administration.

“This action will allow the Biden Administration to prevent any detrimental so-called midnight regulations from taking effect, while ensuring that urgent measures in the public’s interest can proceed,” a fact sheet from the transition team stated.

Klain’s memo is part of a battery of executive actions that Biden was expected to sign. Other directives include an order stopping the construction of Trump’s border wall, the withdrawal of the travel ban meant to protect the United States from terrorism, the rejoining of the Paris climate accord, and re-engagement with the World Health Organization.

Biden took the oath of office at noon on Jan. 20, becoming the 46th president of the United States.

The regulations that are frozen as a result of Klain’s memo will be reviewed by the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Biden nominated Neera Tanden to lead the OMB.

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