Over the years, Congress and presidents have tinkered with the inner-workings of the regulatory apparatus, placing new restrictions on agencies charged with writing rules, and ordering them to root out those that are outdated or overly burdensome.
Despite those tweaks, the current system lacks any institutional mechanism to expunge unneeded federal restrictions.
There are no strict time limits requiring administrations to either issue or withdraw proposed rules aside from those specifically set by laws or the courts. And both advocates and critics of stronger regulations complain of a lack of transparency to the process.
"It's totally broken," said Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO's longtime director of Occupational Safety and Health. "The system is basically a poster child for how government doesn't work."
Yet when it comes to potential solutions, there is little consensus.
Republicans and industry groups, who have bemoaned what they view as overly aggressive federal agencies, want more restrictions on the rulemaking process and a greater reliance on economic analysis in decisions regarding new regulations.
Democrats, unions and public interest groups, meanwhile, say agencies are already hamstrung by existing restrictions on their authority, and argue that open-ended White House reviews have led to a pattern of delays in important protections.
"It's definitely the way you approach the issue," said Diana Carew, an economist at the Progressive Policy Institute, which aligns itself with pro-business New Democrats.
"So what's basically happened is that nothing's happened and now we see this massive buildup of regulation over time and it is actually causing a hindrance on business and business growth, and for small businesses."
In response to the accumulation of federal rules, congressional Republicans have been busy drafting a host of bills meant to lighten the burden of federal red tape on businesses.
The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, for instance, which requires Congress approve regulations expected to have an economic impact of more than $100 million a year, passed the House in August with support from just six Democrats.
Its prospects going forward, however, appear dim.