The ban on 100-watt incandescent light bulbs?
The National Labor Relations Board's action preventing Boeing from opening a factory in South Carolina, a right-to-work state?
The IRS's cumbersome Form 1099 requirement as part of Obamacare?
All of these have been cited by Republicans on the campaign trail as examples of the regulatory overreaches of President Obama. But there's one other thing all three examples share — they've all been overturned, delayed, overridden or eliminated before voters will have a chance either to re-elect Mr. Obama or turn him out of office next year.
The spending bill approved late last week delays enforcement of the light-bulb ban, which was to have gone into effect January 1, until at least October 2012.
Earlier this month, the NLRB quietly dropped its case against Boeing.
And Mr. Obama signed into law back in April a law repealing Obamacare's 1099 reporting requirement, which would have applied to all business purchases exceeding $600.
The White House is even going so far as to block some regulations before they even get out the door, as it did in September by quashing the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to crack down on smog.
The political effect of all this is uncertain. Republicans can claim credit, saying that if they hadn't taken over Congress in 2010, the Obama administration would have pressed ahead on all these fronts. That's almost certainly accurate. But the counterfactual alternative argument can be a difficult one to make politically, as President Obama has found out when claiming that without his policies, the economy would be even worse than it is now.
The danger for Republicans is that their progress on these issues could make their campaign warnings about the dangers of regulatory overreach seem empty. After all, if the worst examples are already overturned, what is the urgency of replacing President Obama? The Republicans can respond that the rest of ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial "reform" bill are still on the books, but that scare will resonate more if the Republicans can find specific, looming examples like the big three newsworthy ones listed above.
The Republicans can also say that, in a second term, without the pressure of having to be re-elected, President Obama may be less responsive to reasonable requests or legislation to roll back his overreach, and he may even try again with new rules. Already, trying to make the most of President Obama's first term, the NLRB is reportedly trying to change the rules of union elections to help unions win organizing elections more quickly, in blitz-like ambush fashion. And the National Transportation Safety Board is calling for a nationwide ban on use of cellphones while driving, including hands-free devices like speakerphones, Bluetooth headsets, and the like. As quickly as the overreaches are reversed, the bureaucracy comes up with new ones. Among the many benefits of winning the presidential election in 2012 for the victor will be the ability to use a phone in the back of the presidential limousine, no matter what the National Transportation Safety Board says.