House Republicans Have Questions About the White House’s Regulatory Update
A staff-level briefing for the House Oversight and Accountability Committee is in the works.
The Biden White House released its much-anticipated regulatory update last month and now House Republicans are voicing some concerns about it.
In early April, President Biden signed an executive order that implements his Day 1 memo improving the effectiveness of the regulatory review process and regulatory analysis. A pair of top Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee recently shared their misgivings on the order and other proposed changes. They requested a staff-level briefing, which a committee spokesperson said is in the works.
“These actions dramatically threaten to alter federal regulatory development and drive Americans’ regulatory burdens beyond already record-breaking levels,” Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the committee, and Pat Fallon, R-Texas, chairman of the committee’s panel on Economic Growth, Energy Policy and Regulatory Affairs, wrote in a letter to Office of Regulatory and Information Affairs Administrator Richard Revesz and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young last week.
The Biden administration has been using regulations to advance its policy goals, unlike the previous administration that sought mass deregulation. The lawmakers expressed their dismay with the Biden administration’s fast pace of regulations and their alleged burdens.
The lawmakers raised concerns that the executive order increases the threshold for rigorous regulatory cost-benefit analysis from $100 million to $200 million in annual effects, which must be adjusted for GDP growth every three years. “With U.S. economic growth slowing and inflation continuing to eat into Americans’ spending power, now is not the time to make it easier for high-cost regulations to evade rigorous economic review,” they wrote.
OMB, which houses OIRA, declined to comment on the letter. However, at an event on Tuesday hosted by The George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center and the Society for Benefit-Cost Analysis, Revesz said “$100 million isn’t what it used to be,” due to economic changes over the years.
Comer and Fallon also argued the executive order’s efforts to expand public participation in the rulemaking process––something OIRA has been working on for a while now as part of the administration’s equity goals––are “a smokescreen for promoting improper agency grassroots lobbying to guarantee pro-regulatory allies’ public comments tilt agencies’ administrative records towards such causes.”
The executive order also directs OMB and OIRA to update within a year Circular A-4, which was issued in 2003 and provides agencies with guidance on regulatory cost-benefit analysis. The White House released in April proposed changes that are open for public comment.
Revesz said upon their release that, “Among other things, the proposed revisions aim to help agencies better account for the value of future regulatory effects and provide the greatest benefits for the American people.”
Meanwhile, the lawmakers wrote these proposed changes “could ensure inflated and distorted calculations of benefits would routinely swamp calculations of projected regulatory costs. This would open the doors to a vast expansion of economy-crushing regulations in the service of progressive causes.”
Comer and Fallon stressed in the letter that the briefing should cover whether their concerns will be addressed in implementation and consideration of these changes. This follows a slew of bills House Republicans introduced when the new session of Congress started in January seeking to cut back on federal regulations and give Congress more power in the rule-making process.