WASHINGTON -- The White House is denying a report that President Obama is considering calling for a moratorium on regulations affecting the economy, save those that deal with health care and financial regulations, in his Thursday jobs speech.
"Those reports are false," said White House spokesman Clark Stevens, in a statement to The Huffington Post. "The Administration has a strong record of implementing smart, sensible steps that protect consumers, public health, and the environment. While the President has made clear that we must continue to ensure that new regulations are based on common sense, and implemented in ways that do not impede our economic recovery, he has also made clear that he will not accept the false choice of either having prosperity or clean air, clean water, and safe food. Americans deserve both, and we will continue to take steps that provide those protections, while fostering economic growth."
Word that Obama was a considering a moratorium on regulations came in a Wednesday morning New York Times story that detailed the choices the administration was pondering in hopes of recasting the president as a pragmatic job creator. The story noted there were "internal divisions" among some Obama advisers "over the scope of his economic address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night":
The president intends to offer at least some progressive proposals to help regain a fighting posture that he has not had since the health care debate, but a provision is also being discussed to place a new moratorium on some regulations that affect the economy, excluding health care and financial rules. The proposals are likely to infuriate an already unhappy Democratic base.
The idea of that the president would consider a regulatory moratorium beyond health care and financial regulations struck Democrats as a potentially massive cave to business interests; and not an entirely inconceivable one. Obama already signed an executive order that implemented a government-wide review to "remove outdated regulations." This past week, the administration withdrew a proposed regulation that would have set stricter ozone standards.
Stevens' statement calms some of the initial concern expressed in the New York Times piece. It also gives a bit of hope to progressives heading into Thursday's address. It does not, however, seem likely to win over those environmentalists or progressives already disheartened with the administration's current regulatory agenda.