House Continues Pursuit of Regulatory Roll-Back Bills

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., re-introduced the REINS Act. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., re-introduced the REINS Act. David Goldman/AP file photo

Maintaining their push to take authority away from regulatory agencies, House Republicans on Thursday passed a long-sought bill that would require both chambers in Congress to approve any major new rule within 70 legislative days for it to take effect. The party-line vote was 237-187.

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (H.R. 26), a bill pursued for several years and re-introduced in the first week of the 115th Congress by Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., would apply to rules deemed to impose $100 million or more in economic impact. The concept has long divided the parties as well as consumer and business groups.

In an op-ed published before Thursday’s floor debate, Collins said the bill was aimed at “oppressive regulations like the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, which hurts the very people it is trying to help and imposes unworkable burdens on businesses, universities and employees.”

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Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who added an amendment to align the bill’s scope with other planned deregulatory bills, said the measure would stop the “endless avalanche of major new regulations that impose burdens and crush jobs.” He said the Obama economic recovery has paled in comparison to that during the Reagan administration in large part due to regulatory “overreach.” The REINS Act is a “much-needed tool to check the one-way cost ratchet that Washington's regulatory bureaucrats too often turn,” he added.

Democrats accused Republicans of turning lawmakers into “micromanagers” and unsuccessfully offered nine amendments seeking to carve out areas for exemptions, such as children’s health and safety. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., called the bill a “legislative hacksaw” and cited Office of Management and Budget figures showing billions in economic benefits that outweigh costs of regulations.

The Republicans’ goal, he said, “is to try to hurt the Affordable Care Act. They also know that regulations had to spring forth from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation legislation that was passed in this body. They know that those regulations have protected the finances and the financial security of Americans who are doing far better now than they were eight years ago when President Obama took office.”

The REINS Act impact, Johnson said, would be to create “a lot of red tape that threatens to end rulemaking as we know it,” while “Congress would still lack the expertise and policy justifications for refusing to adopt a major rule.”

Democrats were rebutted by Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., who said agencies might try to “manipulate” rules and “shade analysis to skirt” the bill’s requirements, but he stressed that having Congress vote “is not designed to force any particular outcome.”

A new Senate version of the REINS Act was introduced on Thursday by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Todd Young, R-Ind.; and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

But prospects for quick passage in the Senate are problematic, judging by past resistance and the greater need for bipartisanship. Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill, D-Mo., told National Journal on Thursday she is “op­tim­ist­ic we’re go­ing to find a reg­u­lat­ory-re­form bill that could get some bi­partis­an sup­port,” but that the House bill was not it.

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