Democrats take control of the Senate, dooming Trump regulatory reforms

Democrats take control of the Senate, dooming Trump regulatory reforms
Jon Ossoff (Image: YouTube screen grab via MSNBC)

Democrats appear to have won both Senate races yesterday in Georgia. Raphael Warnock has defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler. And Jon Ossoff leads Senator David Perdue by over 16,000 votes with less than 2% of the vote uncounted. By winning these two races, the Democrats will now take control of the U.S. Senate.

Until Trump lost Georgia in November, it was a Republican state. Georgia has had only Republican senators since 2004, and before this election, Georgia had not voted for a Democrat for president since 1992.

But Trump always polled poorly in Atlanta’s suburbs compared to other Republicans like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

Will this presidential election be the most important in American history?

The Democrats made gains in Georgia during the Trump administration, aided by Trump’s deep unpopularity in Georgia’s suburbs. In 2018, Republicans won the Georgia governor’s race by only 1.4%,  and lost a Congressional seat in Georgia, a sign of trouble ahead in future elections. Democrats continued to gain strength due to the migration of new voters into Georgia, who were typically less conservative than long-time residents.

The result of the Democrats winning this election will be the swift cancellation of Trump’s recent deregulatory reforms. Democrats Ossoff and Warnock will vote to overturn key Trump reforms; Republicans Perdue and Loeffler would have voted to keep them.

The Democrats will legislatively override those that they can, using the Congressional Review Act, which can’t be filibustered. Those they can’t legislatively override, will gradually be rescinded by the Biden administration.

Trump’s useful deregulatory reforms in 2017-19 were mostly overturned by the courts — 93% of them, in whole or in part. Many of the Trump losses were due to ineptness by Trump appointees in drafting the Trump changes, such as procedural mistakes and sloppiness. Some of the losses were due to left-wing activist judges.

Trump talked about “draining the swamp,” but most of the time, he didn’t really know how. You can’t drain the swamp without the help of someone who knows the swamp well (like knowing administrative law and procedure). Trump never got that expertise. He didn’t hire most of the right people. If you want to fix bad government rules and red tape, you have to hire experts, know what you are doing, and be patient until you get it right.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) would have been much better at draining the swamp. So would Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). These highly-intelligent men understand the law and administrative procedure and how to run a bureaucracy. Trump didn’t. He paid little attention to the rules and processes of governing. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also has a better grasp of these things than Trump does.

An administration can’t just suddenly change most regulations, even if they are bad. It usually has to go through the procedures mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act, such as “notice and comment,” before pulling even a bad regulation. These procedures are detailed and time-consuming, but if they are ignored, someone can sue the government to overturn its regulatory changes, as often happened during the Trump administration.

Due to its lack of understanding of administrative law, the Trump administration failed to rescind most of the burdensome rules and regulations imposed during the Obama administration, which imposed a flood of rules and regulations on American business and our educational sector, harming economic growth and driving up costs to consumers and students.

The Trump administration repealed many of the bad rules, but often in procedurally improper or sloppy ways that led to judges blocking the rules changes and reinstating the bad rules.

On the bright side, most agencies under Trump stopped issuing burdensome rules and regulations, heeding instructions from the White House. That kept things from getting even worse, the way they had under the Obama administration. It improved health and safety in some ways. And it enabled a long economic recovery to continue, contrary to the predictions of some economists that a recession was inevitable and overdue given how long the economic recovery had been underway.

With fewer new regulations to keep track of under Trump, businesses were able to expand and grow, resulting in improved quarterly growth. But the economy would have grown even faster if Trump had managed to get rid of more existing bad rules and regulations, rather than just not imposing new burdensome rules and red tape.

Compared to many countries, America still has a relatively free and flexible economy, enabling its economy to bounce back quickly from its losses due to COVID-19. But that could easily change under a Biden administration, given Biden’s hostility to Trump’s deregulatory reforms. The result would be slower economic growth and more painful economic recessions.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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