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Hearing of the House Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee - H.R. 2122, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2013

Hearing

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

For over four years, since the Great Recession officially ended, America's workers and small businesses have waited for real recovery to take hold. Last week, a new jobs report once again offered superficial reason to think good news might be growing.

In June, the number of jobs added to the economy grew slightly. The number of long-term unemployed fell. And the labor force participation rate grew by one-tenth of one percent.

But over four years into nominal recovery, these signs of improvement are still far too weak. What is worse, lurking beneath the surface, bad news continues to come.

The June jobs report showed an increase of 240,000 in the number of discouraged workers -- those who have simply quit looking for a job out of frustration or despair. The number of people working part-time -- but who really want full-time work -- passed 8.2 million. That represents a jump of 322,000 in just one month.

Worst of all, the truest measure of unemployment -- the rate that includes both discouraged workers and those who cannot find a full-time job -- continues to exceed 20 million Americans. And that rate rose from 13.8% back to 14.3% in June.

This continuing lag in recovery is distressing for all Americans. And the reason recovery has yet to fully arrive is all too easy to see. Real, historical economic growth rates are missing. They have been ever since the Great Recession.

Some say this is a "new normal" -- a yearly growth rate on the order of two percent, in contrast to America's historically higher growth rate. But a "new normal" of suppressed growth, lowered expectations and more than 20 million Americans unemployed or underemployed is something America's workers and small businesses cannot accept and America's leaders must reject.

The American people urgently need the jobs that only greater economic growth can give.

One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of growth and job creation is the growing wall of federal regulation being built in Washington.

The Small Business Administration and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have both estimated that federal regulations now cost our economy well over $1 trillion per year. Yet the Obama Administration is continuing to add historically high numbers of new, major regulations. It has just launched a new regulatory initiative that is sure to increase energy costs for America's families and job creators.

This is "progress" in the wrong direction. As long as America's small businesses and manufacturers continue to tell us that a hostile regulatory environment is one of the biggest challenges they face, we must look for ways to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.

Regulation surely has a role to play in ensuring public health, safety and welfare. But there is no reason Americans need to choose between having regulation that keeps us safe and having economic growth that allows us to prosper.

That is why I reintroduced the Regulatory Accountability Act this Congress. Its reforms to the Administrative Procedure Act -- the "constitution" of federal regulation -- are some of the most important regulatory reforms that we can pass.

Simply put, the Administrative Procedure Act is out of date and encourages regulatory overreach and excessive regulatory costs. Enacted in 1946, it places only a handful of light restrictions on the federal rulemaking process. Congress wrote it long before anyone imagined the reach and expense of the modern regulatory state.

The APA does not require agencies to identify the costs of their regulations before they impose them. It does not require agencies to consider reasonable, lower-cost alternatives. The APA does not even require agencies to rely on the best reasonably obtainable evidence.

While the APA does require agencies to give notice of proposed rulemaking and receive public comment on their proposals, too often that is an after-the-fact exercise. Frequently agencies pre-determine the outcome of rulemakings and notice-and-comment serves only to paper over the record.

The Regulatory Accountability Act fixes this problem by bringing the APA up-to-date. Under its provisions, agencies are required to assess the costs and benefits of regulatory alternatives. Unless interests of public health, safety or welfare require otherwise, agencies must adopt the least-cost alternative that achieves the regulatory objectives Congress has established.

The Regulatory Accountability Act contains common-sense reforms that have bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. In large part, that is because so many of its provisions are modeled on the terms of executive orders that Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama have issued to compensate for the APA's weaknesses.

Over the past three decades, these bipartisan executive orders have proved that the principles of the Regulatory Accountability Act work. But the executive orders are not permanent, are not judicially enforceable, do not bind independent agencies, and are too often honored in the breach.

Under the Regulatory Accountability Act, the principles of these orders would at last become binding law. Sound decisions that meet statutory objectives while they respect the economy's needs would be the order of the day, not the rare occurrence.

American jobs, American growth and American competitiveness would all be the better for it. I urge all of my colleagues to join me and do all we can to pass the Regulatory Accountability Act.


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