Uncategorized — November 22, 2011 at 8:01 am

GOP using back door to derail government regulation – REINS Act & Regulatory Accountability Act


There are a pair of bills going through Congress right now that have the potential to radically alter the government’s ability to regulate industries and organizations in our country.

The first of these is the childishly-named “Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act”(H.R. 10). Currently, Congress passes a regulatory law and it is up to the agencies within the Executive branch to write the regulations based on that direction from the Legislative branch. If Congress doesn’t like how it is done, there are expedited ways for them to halt the new or changed regulations.

Under the REINS Act, this all changes. Now, any new regulation that is deemed to be a “major regulation” (having an impact of $100,000,000 or more) must be APPROVED by both the House and the Senate. Not only that, it must happen within 70 days of being submitted to Congress.

Think about that for a minute. When was the last thing Congress did anything in 70 days?

The impact of this is dramatic. The current way regulations are written attempts to insulate the regulatory process from the political winds that buffet our country. It’s not a complete insulation, of course, but it’s an important separation. If this law passes, a small handful of legislators with a political axe to grind can bring the process to a near standstill, all but guaranteeing the 70 day window will close and no action is taken on the new regulation. When that happens, the regulation is scrapped.

If this becomes law, it also would allow a current Congress to thwart the actions of a previous Congress without ever having to repeal any legislation, a subjugation of our democratic process.

A group of over 30 law professors wrote to the chair of the House Rules Committee urging them not to pass this new law (pdf). They give five very well-reasoned reasons as to why this should NOT become law. They were ignored and the bill has now been voted out of committee and will soon be voted on by the full House.

Of course the legislation is being actively supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who, from all I can see, have never seen a regulation they didn’t want to kill. This bill is a gift to them from their Republican employees slaves minions representatives.

A good summary of this legislation and its potential impacts can be found HERE.

The second bill that is set to be passed by Congress is the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA, S. 1606/H.R. 3010). From the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards excellent white paper (pdf):

The Regulatory Accountability Act (S. 1606/H.R. 3010) will grind to a halt the rulemaking process at the core of implementing the nation’s public health, workplace safety, and environmental standards. This bill will not improve the federal regulatory process; it will cripple it. Rules that somehow make it through the RAA’s process would tilt against the public interest and in favor of powerful special interests.
The RAA would cover every rule and guidance – big and small – proposed by any executive regulatory agency and any independent regulatory agency. It seeks to fundamentally rewrite and expand the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a 65-year-old statute that can be considered as a kind of Constitution for administrative agencies and the regulatory process. There are now more than 110 separate procedural requirements in the rulemaking process; the RAA would add more than 60 new procedural and analytical requirements. For the country’s most important rules, the RAA would add no fewer than 21 to 39 months to the rulemaking process.

This legislation has numerous impacts. Again, borrowing liberally from the CSS’s white paper:

  • Making the “Least Costly” Rule the Default Choice (not the safest rule)
  • Super-Mandating Cost-Benefit Analysis – this overrides considerations of health and safety that can not be easily quantified or quantified at all. How, for example, do you put a price tag on a person’s health or even their life?
  • Shifting to Formal Rulemaking Processes – this is guaranteed to add many months to the regulatory process, by passing informal paths like “notice-and-comment” rulemaking currently used to streamline the process and make it more efficient. Formal rulemaking also allows politics to become involved and can result in endless challenges to agency evidence and findings.
  • Allowing Judicial Review of All Agency Judgments – The RAA would greatly expand the courts’ ability to review agency judgments, empowering parties to challenge virtually every agency decision to proceed with a rule.

If the RAA passes, legislation such at the Clean Air Act or Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) that protect our citizens’ health and safety would be essentially be amended by preventing agencies from setting standards that are based solely on health.

Neither of these two bills is getting much attention but both will have enormous impacts on our country and our ability to regulate the industries and groups that have the biggest potential to cause us harm. This is, for many conservatives, the endgame to decades of pushing back against any regulation at all.

Call your Senator and Representative on these bills. Tell them to vote NO! on both.