Skip to content

Is This The Beginning Of The End Of The $2 Trillion Administrative State?

Photo by Joshua Woods / Unsplash

Last week, a federal appeals court overturned a Biden administration rule governing dishwashers. This week, the Supreme Court will hear a case involving the regulation of commercial fishing.

Both are seemingly minor regulatory scuffles that normally would attract little public attention.

But they could mark the beginning of the end of the bloated, unaccountable, extra-constitutional “administrative state” – which today imposes $2 trillion in costs on businesses and consumers and every day eats away at our freedom.

The dishwasher story began during the previous administration when President Donald Trump pushed regulators to allow consumers to buy dishwashers that, well, wash dishes.

As we noted in this space at the time, federal efficiency mandates had become so strict that it took more than three hours for a dishwasher to do (poorly) what older models did in an hour. Under Trump, the Energy Department allowed for a new class of appliance that could do the job in an hour.

The left freaked. It called Trump’s decision “senseless” and “appalling” and claimed it “hurts consumers.”

On President Joe Biden’s first day in office, he signed an executive order calling on regulators to undo that Trump rule.

They did. And it’s the Biden rule that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned.

Big deal, right? We’re talking about dishwashers, after all.

But it’s a welcome sign that the judicial branch may finally be stepping in to put an end to the virtually limitless power federal regulators routinely exercise. The court noted that Biden’s rule was “arbitrary and capricious,” and added that it’s unclear that the Department of Energy, which issued the regulations, even has the authority to regulate water use – which the rules do.

We can only hope that courts toss out the endless stream of other Biden rules that target gas stoves, internal-combustion engines, and a host of other consumer products.

The second, seemingly unrelated news happens this week when the Supreme Court hears arguments in a case involving commercial fishing vessels. This case gives justices the opportunity to turn the regulatory Leviathan inside out.

It case involves a mandate by another regulatory agency, the Commerce Department, which not only told commercial fishing vessel owners that they had to take federal fish inspectors on board but also had to pay the inspectors’ costs.

The Supreme Court could use this case to rescind what’s known as the “Chevron deference.” In a 1984 ruling, the Court basically said that courts will uphold whatever regulators decide a law means where the law doesn’t specifically spell out what regulators can or can’t do.

“The precedent has given agencies broad powers to implement regulations in policy areas across the board, including the environment, public health, and consumer protection,” The Hill notes.

“Broad powers.” “Across the board.” That’s music to the left’s ears, which is why it is apoplectic about losing its regulatory free hand.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar called overturning Chevron a “convulsive shock to the legal system.” Another critic said it would result in “chaos.” A lawyer who once worked at the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency even argued that it “represents a true danger to our democracy.”

In truth, reining in the unchecked powers federal regulators now wield would begin to restore a government of limited powers that the Founders envisioned and that the Constitution enshrines.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board