SummaryRequire congressional approval for any regulation deemed to have significant economic impact, virtually insuring defeat of health, safety and environmental regulations that are opposed by industry lobbies.
Details & Argument
The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would require Congress to approve all rules that would have a major impact on the economy. It would in effect give Congress two chances to shape legislation; first in its traditional legislative law-writing role, and second through exercising veto power over how the executive branch interprets and implements the legislation.
Congress already has the authority, through the Congressional Review Act of 1996, to overturn a rule finalized by a federal agency within 60 days after the rule is made official through publication in the Federal Register. The REINS Act would amend the Congressional Review Act to require the assent of Congress for major rules designed to implement a particular law.
Major rules would include those that the Office of Management and Budget concludes would have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; would impose a "major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries," government agencies or particular regions of the country; or have "significant adverse effect" on businesses or employment.
Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky., who introduced the bill, told reporters at a news conference that passing the REINS Act will restore Congress ability to effectively perform oversight and checks and balances over federal regulations. "There is something fundamentally wrong when a government agency, at a stroke of a pen, can destroy tens of thousands of jobs, or wipe out an entire industry in America", Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said at the same news conference. "It is time that somebody bring a check and balance into the system."
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said during House debate, "H.R. 10 is the mother of all antiregulatory bills. Since the House was in session during 2010 for 116 legislative days, under this bill??and I invite any of my colleagues to make any different analysis the Congress would be required after 70 days after they receive a rule to act upon it. If you only have 116 legislative days a year, it would be literally impossible to handle the number of rules that we would get. Namely, we got 94 rules last year, 116 days. If we were handling every rule please, use your arithmetic skills, ladies and gentlemen. This bill would be unworkable, and it would be impossible for new regulations to be enacted. But then, maybe that's the whole thrust of the matter."
The legislation was approved by the House, 241 to 184, with 237 Republicans and no Democrats voting in favor and four Republicans and 184 Democrats voting in opposition. Four Republicans and four Democrats did not vote.
The Middle-Class Position
The middle-class position is to oppose this bill. Americans depend on effective regulations to protect our air, water, workplaces, food, medicines and more. This legislation essentially empowers corporate lobbies to stop any effective regulation. It would end up sacrificing the lives and health of Americans.
A key conservative talking point is that "burdensome regulation" is a key reason why businesses are not creating jobs; hence, the imperative to impose a check on "economically significant" regulations issued by federal agencies.
But effective regulation, if anything, generates jobs rather than costs them. "Most small business owners will tell you that their biggest challenge right now is lack of demand, not regulations," wrote Vince Siciliano, CEO of New Resource Bank, in an op-ed article on CNBC.com.
"During the first half of 2011, less than one-quarter of 1 percent of U.S. job layoffs was due to regulations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In contrast, 30 percent of layoffs were due to poor business demand. At least five other surveys, including ones commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce and the McClatchy News Service, found that lack of consumer demand and economic uncertainty were the most important reasons that small businesses are not expanding and hiring.
In trying to "fix" a problem that does not exist, this bill would do serious damage to the interests of working families. The Congress already has the power to overturn regulations it finds excessive. By requiring congressional approval, this legislation would mark the end of effective regulation. Given that deregulation and lax regulators contributed directly to the Wall Street excesses that blew up the economy, this assault on sensible regulation is truly bizarre.