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On his first day in office, President Joe Biden quickly set about undoing some of his predecessor’s signature policies: He said the United States would rejoin the Paris Agreement; he halted construction of a wall along the Mexican border; and he ended the ban on travel to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries.
Tucked into all of those high-profile moves, though, was a memo with a title seemingly designed to be ignored: “Modernizing Regulatory Review.” Sent to the press at 9:43 p.m. on Wednesday in the middle of the Tom Hanks-led inaugural celebration, the White House was not expecting the dry document to drive headlines or set American hearts aflutter.
But the memo could unleash a wave of stronger regulations to reduce income inequality, fight climate change and protect public health. Among left-leaning experts on regulation, it’s a signal that Biden could break with 40 years of conservative policy.
“I realize what I’m about to say to you sounds absurd,” James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform, told HuffPost. “It has the potential to be the most significant action Biden took on day one.”
The order could eventually lead to major changes at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an extremely obscure White House office located inside the only slightly less obscure Office of Management and Budget. OIRA, as it is known, is charged with vetting proposed regulations and has the power to weaken, delay or even kill new rules proposed by other government agencies.
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