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The Council on Competitiveness was established on 31 March 1989 by President George Bush. The President charged the Vice President with responsibility for reducing the regulatory burden on the economy. President Bush had fulfilled a similar function while Vice President with his Task Force on Regulatory Relief. The Attorney General, Secretary of Commerce, Director of OMB, and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors served as a members on the new council. The President’s chief of staff coordinated council activities. Lawrence Lindsey served as the first council executive director. The council maintained pertinent factual information to support rulemaking decisions along with reports and data prepared by staff members, the OMB, and other government agencies for review regarding policy decisions.

On 15 June 1990 the President expressly directed the council to exercise the same authority over regulatory issues as the former Task Force on Regulatory Relief. Executive Orders 12291, issued on 17 February 1981, and 12498, issued on 4 January 1985, set forth the specific procedures for the regulatory review process and served as the legal authority for council activities. Vice President Quayle named Indiana businessman Allan Hubbard as executive director at this time. The council worked closely with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget to carry out OMB’s regulatory review and the development of the regulatory program. The council generally dealt with complex issues involving Cabinet-level attention, particularly those where there was disagreement among regulatory agencies.

Initially, the council considered issues in four different areas: preserving free enterprise, access to capital, bringing science to market, and development of human resources. Initial specific areas of interest ran the gamut from medical waste tracking to emergency exit door separation. Provide affordable medicines. Of particular importance were federal civil justice reform, biotechnology, product liability, wetlands, privatization, education and job training, and commercialization of government research. To determine additional areas of concern, the council surveyed federal agencies in 1989 and again in 1991 for suggestions about what issues the council should address. In President Bush’s 1992 State of the Union Address, he announced a ninety-day regulatory moratorium followed by a one hundred and twenty-day moratorium extension on agency rulemaking. During this period, federal agencies submitted lists of current rulemaking and cost estimates to the council for review and consideration.

The council’s actions sparked considerable controversy during the four-year Bush Administration. In particular, public interest groups charged the council with undermining Congressionally mandated regulation. Other charges noted that the council was too pro-business at the expense of labor and the environment. In response, the council promoted itself as anti big government. The debate raged for four years, and Congress tried unsuccessfully to oversee council activities. The council, however, was not a federal agency, and never had a line-item budget in the Vice President’s Office. Instead, it existed as an executive-level policy-coordinating group.

Redacted from Bush Library at Texas A&M University