Will Reg Reform Pass?

Will Reg Reform Pass?

Senate Governmental Affairs Chairman Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., Thursday predicted the battle over EPA's proposal to tighten air standards for particulate matter and ozone may indicate if Congress will enact comprehensive regulatory reform this year.

In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Thompson said he is "fairly optimistic" he can reach agreement with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., on regulation reform legislation. Levin was courted by Republicans during the 104th Congress but declined to support a package that was strongly influenced by former presidential contender and Majority Leader Dole.

Thompson said judicial review must be in any new reg reform proposal that allows courts to ensure an agency did not conduct a "sham" analysis of a regulation or act in an "arbitrary and capricious" way. The cost-benefit analysis would apply to rules costing $100 million or more annually.

Thompson said Congress should avoid creating a "judicial morass" with such a requirement, but he added, "at a minimum, the cost-benefit analysis should be looked at as part of the overall regulation."

He also said agencies should be required to weigh "substitution risks" when preparing a risk assessment for a rule.

Thompson did not limit his criticism to federal agencies, saying the "underlying problem" with regulatory reform is Congress' "fractured attention."

When legislators do not pay enough attention to the details of underlying statutes, it leads to regulations, he said. "Then we're left with anonymous individuals running our lives," he said, referring to federal regulators.

One solution to relieving the workload of Congress would be a two-year federal budget cycle, Thompson suggested. Congress and federal agencies "spend all year wrapped up in budgetary considerations ... It's a tremendous mess that seems to get worse every year," he said.

He also suggested Congress must do better overseeing of laws already passed.

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