With two nominations late last week, President-elect Trump has telegraphed seriousness about a frontal assault on the out-of-control regulatory state.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is a brilliant, principled, amiable and effective chief legal officer of a state and former state legislator (as well as minor league baseball team owner). He’s also on the board of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which telegraphs that he’s a man of faith, of good conduct and deep ethics.
Mostly Scott Pruitt, a friend, is known as a “rule-of-law” guy: Legislatures make laws, executives execute them, courts superintend both and administrative agencies — whether state or federal — get the minor details worked out and make the laws work. The agencies don’t make their own rules and don’t act without explicit guidance from their legislatures. They follow the law. When there is no law, they don’t act. When the law is ambiguous, they ought to err on the side of restraint. If the legislature wants more action, it will say so. That’s a “rule of law” administrative state.
When Trump announced that he was sending Pruitt to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Left alternatively sputtered and swooned. The old “climate denier” saw was immediately applied to Pruitt by the forces of bureaucratic government and their allies in the mainstream media, and the shrill attacks on Pruitt began and haven’t let up. But here’s the thing: Everyone knows the EPA has been acting lawlessly, has drawn rebuke after rebuke from courts, was run by secretive appointees who slink away in scandal and is populated with ideological extremists who reject the idea of congressional oversight. If there is a “swamp that needs draining” it is the EPA, and Pruitt, the careful, sunny but strategic lawyer’s lawyer, is the administrator to do do it.
Any Senate Republican who does anything other than support Pruitt’s nomination full-throatedly is asking for a primary challenge or at best zero help in his or her next general election, so deep is distrust with the abuses of authority flowing out of President Obama‘s EPA over the past eight years. Voters from states with any coal industry left and with Democratic senators up for re-election — Ohio with Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania with Bob Casey, West Virginia with Joe Manchin — are going to watch closely to see if their home state Democratic senators are owned by the Sierra Club and credit it and other extremists’ attacks on Pruitt.
Pruitt will bring not an attack on climate science to the EPA but a deep regard for the rightful role of an agency that is a creature of statute, not a producer of them. Voters across the country want that accountability for bureaucrats back and will punish those who obstruct its return.
President Trump’s other controversial pick last week, CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder for labor secretary, is another brilliant stroke. He is a leader who will turn a tired old bureaucracy and conveyor belt of job-destroying regulations into a pulpit of free markets, growth and genuine partnership between labor and management.
Puzder is an evangelist of the opportunity society, and the hymn he sings to the unique American invention of the franchise as a path to wealth is beautiful because it is true. He’s a tireless, charming happy warrior (and a Cleveland man, thus a fan of the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers.) The Left clutched at its heart too when his nomination rocketed out of Trump Tower the day after Pruitt’s, and for what is essentially the same reason. A run-amok agency in the Obama years was getting a new boss, one devoted to the rule of law.
Both are five-star nominations. Both are assured confirmation thanks to the Reid Rule, which destroyed the filibuster. But smart Democratic senators looking to 2018 will join their GOP counterparts in voting to install both reformers quickly. There is no love for Beltway bureaucrats in the country at large, for their high-handed ways and endless job-killing rules. A handful of special interests are crying doom, and formerly self-appointed rulers of this and that at EPA and the Labor Department are simply crying.
But believers in the rule of law and everyone who celebrates economic growth for everyone and not just special interest elites are cheering the nominations of Scott Pruitt and Andy Puzder.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.