The move, announced while President Barack Obama was on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, was the latest White House gesture to reach out to a business community that has often felt alienated from the administration. But the move was criticized in some private sector quarters as too little, too late.
"The administration's findings and determinations, on their own, are a worthy effort at making technical changes to the regulatory process, but the results of this look back will not have a material impact on the real regulatory burdens facing businesses today," said Bill Kovacs, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Administration officials said the plans unveiled Tuesday include 500 regulatory reforms, including more than 100 from the Department of Transportation and more than 70 from the Department of Health and Human Services. Once the reforms are fully implemented, the administration estimates businesses will save about $10 billion over five years.
Cass Sunstein, head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said the savings for businesses will give the private sector an opportunity to create new jobs. But Sunstein said he had no estimates on how many jobs could be created as a result of regulatory reforms.
Many of the regulatory reforms are designed to help small businesses, the administration said. Those include accelerating payments to as many as 60,000 small businesses that have contracts with the Department of Defense, and requiring the Small Business Administration to adopt a single electronic application in order to reduce paperwork burdens.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the administration's announcement was "underwhelming." And the Chamber of Commerce said real regulatory reform should include permit streamlining and reforms that would make it easier for businesses to get environmental clearance to start projects.
Obama called for federal agencies to scrutinize their existing regulations after his party suffered sweeping losses in the 2010 elections. The president acknowledged at the time that his relationship with the business community had soured, and he vowed to scrap "dumb" rules that were hindering private sector growth.
Sunstein said the reforms would not impact regulations needed to protect consumers and the environment, including rules used by the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure safe air travel and by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration to protect food safety.