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Congressional Review Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARTER. Thank you, Congressman King. That was a wonderful thing to do. He is a wonderful American hero, Mr. Peck. We are very proud to get to know him, and we wish him well. We are grateful for his spirit.

Tonight, we are going to talk again about the regulations that are going on in this country. I am very pleased to be joined by Congressman Geoff Davis of the great State of Kentucky, which happens to be my father's home State. Congressman Davis is going to join us, and we are going to talk about a one-two punch that we hope to put together for regulations.

Right now, as we've been talking about in the past, we have a tool which allows this Congress to review certain major pieces of regulation that come from the regulators, that is, from the Departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It's called the Congressional Review Act. It allows Congress to review every new major Federal regulation issued by the government agencies and, by passage of joint resolution, to override that regulation.

The process you go through is that the Federal agencies submit to each House of Congress and to the Comptroller General of the U.S. a comprehensive report on any major proposed rule. The Congress has 60 legislative days to pass a joint resolution disapproving the rule. The Senate must vote on a CR resolution of disapproval. Now, that's kind of where this thing is right now, and that's the tool we have. We've been talking about that as we've been talking about the massive number of regulations that have just inundated this country since the beginning of this administration.

So, before I yield to my friend for a conversation about the REINS Act, which will be the reverse of that and a new tool--and I'll let him explain it--just let me tell you something about the amount of regulations that have been put into effect during the Obama administration.

It is an epidemic. The Federal Government has issued 3,360 new rules and regulations, an average of 13 new rules a day--78 of those new rules just last year. A ``major rule'' is a rule that, as I said, may result in having an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, a major increase in the cost of prices for consumers or significant adverse effects to the economy. By the way, we are just getting started, it seems, with regard to what ObamaCare is doing, and it is probably going to be the mother of all rulemaking instruments.

Geoff Davis, Congressman Davis, has a new and better idea, a tool--although this is a great tool--that I think will function even better. So I am going to yield to Congressman Geoff Davis whatever time he needs to consume to start our talking about the REINS Act.

That's not ``rain'' like we pray for over in Texas all the time, is it?


Mr. CARTER. Reclaiming my time, I thank the gentleman for explaining this to us, and you hit on a bunch of points I think we need to keep reminding the American people about because we've all been out there living our lives, raising our kids, doing the things with our wives, and just getting caught up in living. And on the periphery, we hear of something that may interfere with our little business we formed or may interfere with a big business that we've got a job in that's going to cause issues, and we just tend to say Congress did it.

When, in reality, most of the things I believe that people hear those things about some rule that requires them to put up a barrier or like I had one guy tell me, They made me put up water retention barriers in the desert in New Mexico where it hadn't rained in 4 years. And he thought that was ridiculous; and I said, well, I kind of have to agree with that, and I guess there's some reason for it.

But the point is that wasn't done by Congress. That was done by one of these regulators you are talking about. When you write a rule or regulation that would cost this country, this society, $100 million, then that has a major effect on some human being that lives in this country; and I think we have the responsibility as the representatives of the people to take a look at that thing and decide if that's the right thing to do.

The way the Congressional Review Act is, they file it and then we have to take aggressive action to get a vote on that issue. By the REINS Act, it would be mandatory that it be filed and it must have a vote. There is no exception as I understand it.

So if something is going to change $100 million or more of your life, you would think the guy you elected or gal that you voted for to come here and speak on your behalf ought to have something to say about it. That's why I like the REINS Act; it puts a responsible party responsible for the things that bureaucrats do. Bureaucrats have the ability to make these fancy rules that they're not responsible for. They write them; but then, you know, they've got a paycheck, they're civil servants, their job's protected with what I would argue is a sort of tenure after a certain period of time. They may even be represented by a labor union.

And so they're sitting here safe and sound; and when they write that regulatory act, they don't answer to any voters back home to decide whether they keep their job, providing a good act or a bad act. They and probably a panel of people they are working with decide this is a good idea.

But here's what's going on right now that has many of us very concerned. A lot of issues that now we're facing with regulation were issues we voted on in this Congress. We discussed in committees in the last 2 years when the Democrats were in charge of this House and the Senate and the Presidency, and those things they were not able to gets passed through both Houses and signed by their President, the Democratic President, Mr. Obama, and yet now they're trying to do those same things by regulation; and the perfect example is CO2.

The whole issue of greenhouse gases, basically they could not get a vote by both Houses of Congress to support calling greenhouse gases noxious gases that should be regulated or should be eliminated. So now they just passed a rule, or they're passing a rule, at the EPA and declaring it. They got one court to make a ruling in their favor; and with that, they're going forward on it. But that issue is in debate in this House today, and it will be in debate when the REINS Act brings it before this House for a vote.

That's why if we can get this passed--and I believe we will get support, bipartisan support, by both sides of the aisle, both in this House and in the Senate, and I'm very hopeful that the President will sign it because it's a tool that works for--doesn't matter what party you're in because, hey, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Republican Presidents or Republican administrations haven't proposed bad regulations, because they have.

And it's not a party responsibility here. It's an individual Member's responsibility to make sure that we don't write regulations that are going to in such a way hinder our ability to do the things of commerce that keep jobs being created and so forth that we let the bureaucrats run the country. We elect them to run the country. They got hired for a job, and I think that anything that has this kind of influence on the economy requires a vote of the people, who said I will take responsibility for making the voice of the people in my district heard in Washington. You're not going to get that voice heard by the regulators. It's going to have to be here in Congress.

I commend my colleague, Mr. Davis, for a good bill, well done, and a concept that enhances the liberty and freedom of the American citizens.

I yield back for your comments.


Mr. CARTER. Reclaiming my time, you're exactly right. So that people understand, many of these regulations, as they look at things, they don't look at the big picture of what that regulation was meant to do. In fact, I don't think they consider just how far reaching what they're doing is going to be. I would venture to guess that when they wrote that regulation concerning that particular chemical that had leached down through a crack and gotten parts per billion or whatever it was into the dirt, that they probably envisioned some big factory dumping major chemical deposits out on the ground. They never thought of a mom-and-pop cleaners that might have a slight crack in the foundation which causes a very minute amount to fall down there and then say, You've got to remediate like a monster company who dumps all this trash in there should have to remediate. I think that the people that were writing that were thinking about the big guy, never realizing what they were doing on the little guy.

Last night, I guess it was, I had a really nice invitation from some people. There's an event in Austin. I'm going to plug for them because it's a great event. It's called South by Southwest. And many people think of it as a music festival. There's lots of bands that come in. They have lots of live music. Austin is the live music capital of the world.

But there's also a lot of entrepreneurs. High-tech innovators and all sorts of people come there to share ideas, to go to seminars about how we're going to thrive in the 21st century. It's a great, I believe, week-long celebration. It may be longer than that.

Last night, I was invited to a private meeting between--I'd say there's at least 100 to 150 people with ideas, and what they call angel investors; that is, people who are willing to look at these ideas and maybe be willing to loan startup money to get these companies started.

The first thing I want to tell you: I don't believe I've ever walked into a room where there were more enthusiastic people who thought they had a great idea. I mean, it just felt good talking to these young people. Many of them, you wouldn't be able to pick them out on the college campus from all the rest of the kids on the college campus. They look just like all the kids on the college campus, and many of them were. But they had an idea, had come up with an idea. These were the Michael Dells and the Bill Gates of the future that had an idea, and they were gathering with other people with ideas.

Of course, when we think of this, when we mention Michael Dell and Bill Gates and the people in the high-tech industry, we think everything is high tech and Internet; but, in fact, some of the ideas were just pretty simple. But somebody had a good idea.

And one of them I thought was kind of innovative was a rolling kitchen. These were gourmet chefs who said, you know, I want to cook. I've got good food, but I don't want to have to buy a facility. I want to just have a Winnebago with a full kitchen in it and a way to sell my food outside the door, and I'm going to sell gourmet food on the street like a street vendor. It's an interesting concept, and it seems to be, as it was described to me, the beginning of a very successful idea.

Now, these ideas were there, and there were people who come and invest in those things. I met one guy who said, Yeah, you know, sometimes you pick a winner and sometimes you don't, but I've picked a couple of winners. One of them was Netflix. I got in the first day on Netflix. Now we're doing pretty good.

But what this was, this was the seed corn, if you will, of capitalism in America. This is what it's all about. But most of the people that had projects there had something to do with a tool that we all are learning about, and that is the Internet.

Now, we have rules coming down from the Federal Government. The FCC is putting out rules to grant the Federal Government new power to regulate the Internet, restrict access and, thus, stalling this type of innovation of these dynamic young men and women that I met last night with their great concepts on how to improve life and create a business.

Our Founding Fathers were very smart. They realized if you give us liberty, from that will come new ideas; from those new ideas will come entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs; from that will come jobs, capital to reinvest and grow a thriving economy. We have been living on that basic system of private enterprise in this country now since the inception of this country, and these young technocrats have learned how to use the Internet as a tool to make life better for people. Yet if you ask them what they don't want, they don't want the Federal Government regulating them.

Now, the people that are wanting to regulate, they're looking at maybe some things they see as problems. I don't know what problems they are. Maybe they think somebody is using it to enhance politics other than theirs and they're worried about the other guy having access for political reasons. Maybe they're worried about some of the bad things that are on the Internet. And there are bad things. Our terrorists are learning how to make weapons to kill other people on the Internet. But they are not realizing that, as they take something that's working and stick the Federal Government in there, it probably isn't going to be working as good. The Federal Government doesn't do a whole lot to make things work well.

So the unintended consequences of that is they would basically destroy this exciting, innovative industry that's being created in this country to come up with new ideas that, hopefully, make life better and more convenient for all of us and, in turn, hopefully, generate wealth for those who have the ideas, because that's what we are all about.

Right now, using this tool, until we can get Mr. Davis' REINS Act--which I'm a cosponsor and almost everybody I know is. We're going to try to get this thing passed this session of Congress, signed into law by the President of the United States, as a tool that all Members of Congress should respect. Until that time, we use the Congressional Review Act. And here's some things we are looking at in the Congressional Review Act.

The EPA rule disapproving the State of Texas' flexible permitting system under the Clean Air Act. We filed H.J. Res. 21, John Carter sponsors that. FCC Net Neutrality Rule, H.J. Res. 37, Greg Walden is using the Congressional Review Act to look into that. HHS rule on medical loss ratio, MLR, requirements under the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.J. Res. 19, I am going after that rule with the Congressional Review Act. NESHAP Rule for Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry, H.J. Res. 42. Again, Representative Carter. This rule is likely to close 18 cement kilns around the country and destroy good American jobs, driving them overseas to places like China and India, possibly increasing the mercury pollution in the United States from offshore pollution.

These are just examples of some things we have been working on. We have talked about them before. And I can assure you, my office right now is daily checking every service we can find to find out about every regulation that is being proposed so that we can look at the ones that we can be aggressive and take the offense on for the Congressional Review Act.

Once again, the REINS Act would shift the burden, as we say in the law, and it would mean that we would have to vote on any major regulation as by the definition that Mr. Davis has given us. So both these tools would be available to Members of Congress for us to be able to look at these administrative rules that are being passed, which are basically done by individuals and agencies, not by this Congress, and give this Congress, which represents the people, to be responsible for whether or not the rule passes. Therefore, if the folks back home want somebody to blame, that is what you take this job for. The buck stops with your vote. If you support the rule, you are going to be responsible for it. And if the folks back home don't like it, you are going to own it. But that is what we came up here for. We came up here to be responsible for our constituents, to be their voice in Washington.

Maybe my friend, Mr. Davis, would like to comment again. So once again I yield to you.

Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky. I thank the gentleman. And just your point on being responsible. One thing that I would share along these lines is that one of the jobs that all Members of Congress have is to explain to their constituents what is happening in Washington and also to explain to Washington what their constituents think. And when we come down to these issues with the rules, I think of one thing so critical for us to understand is, and I have seen it in my early time here. I saw it certainly during the health care debate when people would walk out and they would do press conferences and do press releases talking about all the great things that were happening. We read the bill in our office, I didn't see any of that happening, but it took 3 months and then 6 months and 12 months, and people were waking up to all these things that weren't there, and it created a great backlash. And much of that was expressed in frustration at the election because of ultimately this growth and intrusion of policy that the American people didn't want.

By having this check and balance, it does several things. It restores transparency so people can see. It forces Members of Congress to communicate with their district. If we think a regulation is something that is important to have enacted or a law that will empower a regulation that is going to have significant reach, we need to have that discussion with our constituents so they understand, as well as a discussion with the agency community long before that legislation ever goes to the floor of the House.

By bringing about this REINS process, it would take these major rules at the end of 60 days back up here for an up-or-down vote. Really, if the House and Senate are doing their job and the agency community and the executive branch is doing its job, that should be a relatively straightforward exercise. But if there is an attempt by the executive to step outside the will of the people, then we get into this. And it is important.

I go back to the question of the Congressional Review Act. In corollary, not directly tied to this by regulation, but oftentimes in the agencies there is an attempt that takes place to fall into a routine of operation. And in times of crisis, those are not always the most effective thing.

Many of us remember back in the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regardless of one's politics, positions on the policy, we suddenly found ourselves in a new kind of counterinsurgency that had not been expected by the military, had not had the expectation set by the administration that this was going to unfold, and in fact they were caught by surprise. Because of the promulgation of thousands of improvised explosive devices by the fall of 2003, the Army and Marine Corps specifically realized we were in a full-blown counterinsurgency and had to react. The first words out of the civilian bureaucracy and the Defense Department were that it would take several years in order to accomplish what was necessary because laws would have to be enacted and following test doctrines for various programs.

I think of some of the things I have seen in military programs that began 15, 20, 25 years ago and simply die because, by the time something gets to a flyable prototype or an executable weapons system, it ends up making itself obsolete because there is not that agility to respond because of the internal regulations, not even germane to what we are talking about tonight, but these rules that govern the mindset of how the government operates.

Well, telling division commanders and brigade commanders and regimental and battalion and company commanders, well, it will be a couple years down the road, and we will have a solution to your immediate combat problem, is not the way Americans think and operate.

In World War II, we fielded all kinds of technology. What worked was made in mass, and it showed the agility of our industrial complex. And we were looking for everything, long before this large military-industrial bureaucracy came into being.

What it took for Congress to get the up-armored vehicle program into theater, and it was an amazing thing after enactment; you were here to see that, 39,000 armored vehicles that would not have gone into theater specifically in Iraq were there in 16 months, but it took an act of Congress to do that, to exert on the executive branch the will of the American people. This was even a case when the President agreed and wanted this, but even he couldn't overcome the inertia of his own agency community. Something not uncommon for Presidents, regardless of party.

Coming back into our world here with the regulations that affect us economically in day-to-day time. Restoring accountability, restoring the dialogue, restoring the constitutional primacy of the legislature allows us to do our job to protect the American people, to make sure that their interests are seen, and give them somebody to hold accountable at the end of the day. You can't fire the EPA administrator or the director of the FCC or the Secretary of Education or any of a number of other agency heads if they implement regulations that are not what our communities, what our country, what our citizens want. And, frankly, it brings an end to this paternalistic government that is run by experts that don't necessarily reflect what the will of the American people is.

Your colleague from Texas gave a remarkable speech a couple of years ago on the issue of CFC light bulbs. I find it so amazing in the mandate that was put down to have CFC light bulbs. In 2007, I remember when one was dropped in the Longworth Office Building and the building was evacuated over the issue of this. Mr. Poe from Texas read this draconian list of regulatory requirements in dealing with a dropped light bulb.

The thing that struck me is it is so expensive to comply with the regulations on the production side that none of them are made nor will ever be made in the United States of America. They are made in China. And I think that is one example that shows this complete dissonance.

We can restore American economic competitiveness. We can strengthen our regulatory framework for real, sound regulations that protect consumers, that protect the American people, that protect the integrity of our commerce, but do it in such a way so it is in context and not putting layer over layer over layer that just increases complexity, increases the size and reach of government, and ultimately the cost to our pocketbook.

Mr. CARTER. Those are excellent comments. And those light bulbs are a particular sticking point in my life. I don't like being mandated to purchase anything, quite honestly, by the government. And it is really kind of hypocritical to say everybody has got to use these lights, but we can't make them in the country because the regulators won't let us. And we create the regulators. So it is just hypocritical.

I guess what we are trying to say to folks out there and to the people in this Chamber is that it is time to take a look at this secret world of regulators. And it really is a secret to the American people.

I don't think I would make a bad estimate if regulations were printed on both sides of paper like that size paper; and this Chamber has, what, 80 foot ceilings, 100 foot ceilings, and it is probably 40 yards long and 20 yards wide? Stacking these regulations on pages like this, you would have to have at least two or three of them, probably just to cover the IRS Code, much less all the other regulations.

The voluminous number of regulations that are out there will literally boggle your mind. If there is a good reason to have the Internet, it is to have somebody help you keep track of the regulations probably better than anything I can think of.

They're there. They interfere with our lives. Some of them help and some of them don't. And the people's representatives should have a say.

The Congressional Review Act is presently giving us a chance to have a say, and we hope to bring many of these, actually all of these, to the floor of this House for a vote and to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

With the REINS Act passed and signed into law, it gives us another way to get the people of this House who represent the people of this country to cast a vote on behalf of their citizens back home as to whether a major regulation will or will not help this Nation.

As we sit here trying to take down barriers to creating jobs, if there's one thing more than anything else that we've got to do for now and for the foreseeable future in this Congress, it is help take down barriers and get the entrepreneurial spirit going again and get the environment such that people quit sitting on their money and go out and hire new people to help them make bigger profits and grow their companies by hiring people and giving them a job. That's our number one priority. It must be. These regulations, some of them are good, but many of them are onerous and prevent these jobs that we're talking about.

I thank the Speaker for his time.


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