A Bill to Hamstring Agency Rulemaking Passed the House Despite Veto Threat
The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act would require all new major regulations by federal agencies to first be approved by both the House and Senate.
The House on Wednesday voted 221-210 to pass legislation aimed at making it harder for agencies to write and implement new regulations, despite a veto threat from the White House.
The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (H.R. 277), introduced by Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., would require the House and Senate to vote affirmatively in favor of any major rule—that is, regulations that would have an impact of at least $100 million on the economy annually—before it can be implemented. It also preserves Congress’ ability to disapprove non-major rules via joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act.
Republicans argued on the House floor that Congress has too often delegated its legislative authority to “faceless bureaucrats” who write onerous and unpopular regulations that hurt taxpayers and contribute to inflation.
“The power of the administrative state to impose radical and unpopular policies that could never be passed by Congress violates the separation of powers and is a failed business model for running this country,” said Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., during debate Tuesday. “Article 1 of the Constitution grants all legislative powers to Congress, but over time, Congress excessively delegated its constitutional charge, all while failing to conduct appropriate oversight and accountability for the content of the laws that it passes. The REINS Act is critical to Congress reclaiming its rightful authority and responsibility to legislate.”
But Democrats pushed back, arguing that the measure would politicize the executive branch’s process of interpreting and implementing laws Congress has already passed, as well as make it nigh impossible to implement new regulations. They pointed to the events of last week, when a handful of conservative lawmakers were able to derail most House business, including consideration of the REINS Act, because they were upset with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s performance during recent negotiations to lift the debt ceiling.
“The central fallacy of this bill is the idea that Congress can possibly legislate on all of these things, on all of the regulations we have,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. “There are thousands of regulations, and there must be for the safety of our people. How many parts per billion of arsenic in the atmosphere is safe? Is it 15? 20? 200? No one in this body has the expertise to say that, but there are experts at agencies who are trained to do that . . . We’re not competent to decide that, and that’s why Congress has delegated these decisions over the years to agencies to make on our behalf. We write the general law and delegate the power to decide these specific questions.”
The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is unlikely to advance due to the 60-vote threshold for bypassing a Democratic filibuster. And even if that chamber did pass the bill, President Biden has already vowed to veto it.
“Congress has explicitly charged federal agencies with the responsibility and the authority to act, but the REINS Act of 2023 would undermine agencies’ efforts by inserting into the regulatory process an unwieldy, unnecessary and time-consuming hurdle that would prevent implementation of critical safeguards that protect public safety, grow our economy, and advance the public interest,” wrote the Office of Management and Budget last week.