Vice President Bush's Task Force on Regulatory Relief, which had long since faded into the bureaucratic woodwork, is about to go out of business permanently, leaving the Office of Management and Budget with the overall responsibility for government regulations.
The task force's demise comes when its role in aiming the government's deregulatory firepower--particularly through its hit lists of regulations--had receded. While the formal group, including several Cabinet members and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, served in part as an appellate board to resolve regulatory disputes, the early, aggressive days of the Reagan administration's deregulation drive were over.
Task force counsel C. Boyden Gray still provided an ear for complaints about regulation and deregulation, but it is unlikely that, in an election year, businessmen or others with a gripe about an agency's regulation will have difficulty being heard by the OMB or the White House.
"I think they decided that now the whole process of regulatory review is institutionalized. The best place to put a function like that is with the career people at OMB," said Jim J. Tozzi, who, until he stepped down as deputy administrator of the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs served as one of the most visible task force staff members.
"The party line," said one person familiar with the workings of OIRA and the task force, "is that they've done their job and can disband."
Another OIRA staffer pointed out that the big push for regulatory reform came before most agency heads had been named, and that fledgling efforts for regulatory relief needed a visible and high-level champion. Putting Bush in charge of the task force served that purpose, the staffer said.
Now, in contrast to the days when businessmen frequently complained about regulatory overkill, many public-interest groups are now decrying OMB's role in relaxing some regulatory restrictions. Still, some analysts question how well the push for deregulation worked: one catch phrase bandied about town dubbed the administration "the gang that couldn't deregulate."
In its early days, the task force publicized a series of hit lists of regulations that the administration wanted to review and probably relax. Later, however, it became more difficult to distinguish the role of the task force from that of OIRA, which provided most of the task force staff and carried out its objectives.
Gray, the task force counsel, refused to comment yesterday on the group's demise. The group has scheduled a press briefing today.