Last week’s US mid-term election result, which saw the Republican Party win a majority in the House of Representatives and reduce significantly the Democratic majority in the Senate, looks to have set the scene for a standoff for the remaining two years of President Barack Obama’s current term.
The result raises questions about the viability of Obama’s legislative agenda from now until 2012, with the possibility of a repealed healthcare bill, stalled energy legislation and potentially blocked free-trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
However, fears that the result also has the potential to undermine many of the regulatory reforms already introduced are unwarranted, according to Boston-based Bingham McCutchen litigation partner Sabin Willett.
“There’ll be no change in regulatory work, in part because it’s not the objective of the Republican majority in the house, nor does it lie within their power to change anything,” said Willett. “Their sole objective is the White House in 2012. So they’ll enact provocative and hopeless bills that will either die in the Senate or be vetoed, hope and pray that the economy doesn’t recover and the country continues to struggle, and then run in 20 12 on the failure of the Senate and the president to enact their agenda.
“They have no intention of enacting anything because that would risk, even with a myopic public, being held accountable.”
Willett said there was a second reason for regulatory lawyers around the world not to fear the impact of the result.
“Even if they could enact anything it will not change the volume of statutes that have enabled rules,” the Bingham partner added. “At most it will lead to rule amendments, the purpose of which will be to unfetter business.
“The promulgation and interpretation of amended rules, if it occurs at all, will involve the same or more legal work for regulatory lawyers.”