Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, was joined by 11 other Senators to introduce the REINS (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) Act. This legislation is intended to restore accountability to the process by which federal agencies finalize major regulations by requiring congressional approval for major regulatory actions. Cosponsors of the REINS Act include U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Ensign (R-Nevada), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), John Thune (R-South Dakota), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi). U.S. Congressman Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky) plans to offer companion legislation in the U.S. House.
"We must put a stop to the reckless and costly anti-free market regulations that are destroying jobs," said Senator DeMint. "When the Obama Administration hasn't been able to ram their anti-job polices through Congress, they've empowered unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to force them through using regulations. From the ongoing attempts to control the environment and the Internet to the forthcoming barrage of regulations facing the health care and financial industry, it's no wonder that consumer costs are rising and businesses are reluctant to invest and grow."
The REINS Act would require that every new major rule proposed by federal agencies be approved via joint resolution passed by both bodies in Congress and signed by the President before they can take effect. A "major rule" is any rule that the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finds may result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices for consumers; or significant adverse effects on the economy.
A recent report by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy stated: "The annual cost of federal regulations in the United States increased to more than $1.75 trillion in 2008. Had every U.S. household paid an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each would have owed $15,586 in 2008." According to research by The Heritage Foundation, the Code of Federal Regulations, a compendium of all existing federal rules, hit a record high of 163,333 pages in 2009, an increase of some 22,000 since the beginning of the decade.
One prime example of a major rule is the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final rule establishing a mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reporting program for sources with emissions that exceed 25,000 tons per year (74 Fed. Reg. 56,260). EPA estimates the cost of the rule at $115 million for the first year and $72 million on an annualized basis in subsequent years.
A recent Congressional Research Service report finds that "the [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] gives federal agencies substantial responsibility and authority to "fill in the details' of the legislation through subsequent regulations." There are at least 40 provisions in the health care overhaul that require, permit or contemplate federal rulemaking.
Senator Sessions said: "We've witnessed a dramatic expansion of the use of administrative rulemaking to set national policy on major issues. There is an appropriate role for administrative rules, but it is a dereliction of Congressional duty to allow the executive branch to fill in important details of legislation after it is passed, and it is an executive overreach to use the rulemaking process to circumvent the will of the people. This problem is exacerbated by the trend of appointing unelected czars that are not subject to Senate confirmation or the scrutiny of Congressional oversight. This legislation would implement important changes in the rulemaking process to limit the scope of rulemaking authority, and to ensure that Congress passes judgment on major rules that could affect our economy."
Senator Ensign said: "This Administration has seen fit to govern through burdensome regulations with little accountability to the American people. These job-killing regulations are nothing more than hidden taxes that threaten our already shaky economic situation even more. Our legislation will make the President and his agencies accountable to the people of this country by requiring Congressional approval of major regulations and will ensure that this heavy-handed rule over the American people is effectively reined in. Innovation in this country faces a very real threat unless Congress acts to stop this."
Senator Enzi: "Some people in my state live in fear of what the EPA, Forest Service, BLM or other agencies will do next that could harm their recreation or their business. It shouldn't be that way. We need to put accountability back in the system. Non-elected bureaucrats should never have the kind of power some of these agencies have in the rule making process."
Senator Risch said: "Unfortunately, this administration has blatantly abused the rule-making process and sidestepped congressional oversight in order to implement policies a majority of Americans oppose. This legislation reins in runaway executive authority by requiring all substantial rules to pass through Congress before they can be implemented."
Senator Thune said: "The Obama Administration continues to circumvent Congress by crafting major federal regulations behind closed doors that are crushing America's small businesses and job creators. We must restore the transparency and accountability that has been lost under this Administration. The REINS Act would put a stop to run-away power by ensuring that major regulations and rules proposed by the executive branch would have to be approved by Congress before taking effect."
Congressman Davis said: "I would like to thank Senator DeMint for taking a leadership role in the Senate on this important issue. The REINS Act is an immediate step we could take to improve the checks and balances of our government. It will provide greater transparency and accountability to the American people for the regulations that will affect their daily lives."