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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 10, Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2011, and For Other Purposes

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NUGENT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this rule, H. Res. 479. H. Res. 479 provides for a structured rule so that the House may consider H.R. 10, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act.

The rule gives the House the opportunity to debate a wide array of important, germane amendments offered by Members from both sides of the aisle. Better known as the REINS Act, the underlying legislation is a pivotal bill that would change the very way Washington does business.

The REINS Act takes a step back and looks at our current regulatory process, where Congress passes broad, general laws and then lets the executive branch interpret and regulate them however they see fit. H.R. 10 brings us back to the vision that our Founding Fathers had for this Nation and for the institution of Congress. It would ensure that our three branches are coequals, the way they were designed to be. H.R. 10 would hold Congress accountable for setting America's regulatory policies. It makes Congress do the work that our Founders intended this institution, the first branch, to do: to regulate.

Mr. Speaker, I know that regulations have been a buzz word up here in Congress recently, and I think it has become so popular, so frequently discussed because people within the Washington Beltway are finally starting to wake up to the fact that those in my home State of Florida have been telling me since before I ever came here: that regulations matter. The government can't really do much to actually create jobs or to physically put people back to work. We might wish it were so, but we don't have the magic job formulas on either side of the aisle that we can use to suddenly create millions of jobs for the nearly 9 percent of Americans who are currently out of work. What we can do is create an environment where real job creators--small businesses and private companies--can gain access to capital and operate with as much regulatory certainty as possible.

Unfortunately, it's hard to create such an environment when the executive branch is constantly churning out one major regulation after another. According to the Congressional Research Service, during his first 2 years in office, Federal agencies under the leadership of the Obama administration published over 175 major rules. These regulations impose tens of billions of dollars annually on our economy and on consumers. This is on top of the continuing burden of redtape that we are already up against, which the Small Business Administration estimates to cost $1.75 trillion--$1.75 trillion--yearly.

The Federal Register is sort of like the daily newspaper of the Federal Government. It holds all Federal agency regulations, proposed rules and public notices, Executive orders, proclamations, and other Presidential documents.

According to the National Archives' Web site, you should read the Federal Register if, among other things, your business is regulated by the Federal Government; if you're an attorney; if your organization attends public hearings; if you apply for grants; if you're concerned with government actions that affect the environment, health care, financial services, exports, education, and other major policy issues. Reading this recommendation, it sounds to me like they're saying if you're an active and informed member of the American public, you need to know what's in the Federal Register.

What they don't mention is that the complete Federal Register is 72,820 pages long. That's over 145 reams of paper that contain regulations. To help put it in perspective, that's 725 pounds of paper. And for my Floridian friends, that's about three Josh Freemans, the quarterback for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Within these 73,000 pages of regulations are regulations that result in 120 million hours of paperwork burdens for United States businesses every year. The 2011 Federal Register, the rules that are contained within, cost American employers $93 billion in compliance costs, which equals about 1.8 million jobs.

Think about everything that job creators could do instead of spending hundreds of millions of hours filling out paperwork for the Federal Government, all of the jobs that could be created if they weren't spending money complying with regulations that Congress hasn't even put on them, but regulatory agencies have.

H.R. 10 really does ``rein'' in these burdens. Instead of letting the White House decide what the regulations should be, only allowing Congress to disapprove an executive's action, H.R. 10 flips the current system on its head.

The REINS Act says if the executive branch wants to impose a major rule, a rule that's going to cost $100 million or more, then Congress, this body, needs to approve that rule before it has the force of law.

In 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service, executive agencies published over 100 major rules. These basically are rules that went into effect simply because the President said it was so. The REINS Act says: no more.

Now, once the executive branch issues a rule, Congress needs to approve it, otherwise it never takes effect. It's stunning that something so simple, that Congress should make the laws, can be so contentious.

I've heard my colleagues on the other side of the aisle say if Congress just wrote better, more precise laws, the Executive wouldn't need to regulate through these rules. The problem is that sometimes the executive branch agencies have shown they're using their regulatory powers to circumvent the legislative process.

For example, after it was clear the Senate wasn't going to pass cap-and-trade, which really ought to be called cap-and-tax, the EPA just went ahead and started regulating greenhouse gases through the rulemaking process, cutting Congress out of the process altogether. This year's most expensive rule, the greenhouse gas/CAFE standards, is estimated to cost $141 billion. That's greater than the entire GDP growth for the United States in the first quarter of 2011.

We're not all constitutional scholars. I'm certainly not. But if one thing is clear, Congress is the one who makes the laws. It's not that Congress makes the laws unless they don't make the laws the President wants them to make. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act brings us back to the basic foundation of our government. It says that not only does Congress provide the legislative intent, but it also provides the legislative oversight as the rule comes back if it's a major rule that's going to cost over $100 million to our businesses and citizens of this country.
That's what we're designed to do, to make tough decisions. That's why I'm so proud to cosponsor this bill. It's why I'm proud to sponsor this rule, and it's why I'm proud to vote for both the rule and the underlying legislation.

With that, I encourage all of my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on this rule and ``yes'' on the underlying legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. NUGENT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

An editorial in The Wall Street Journal stated that the REINS Act--this act that we are talking about--``would revolutionize government in practice and help restore the representative democracy the Founders envisioned.'' Profound words. While discussing regulatory reform, Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a contributor to Forbes magazine said that ``reaffirming Congress' accountability to voters for agencies' most costly rules is a basic principle of good government.'' And Jonathan H. Adler, a professor of law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said in a congressional hearing earlier this year that the REINS Act ``offers a promising mechanism for disciplining Federal regulatory agencies and enhancing congressional accountability for Federal regulation.''

The REINS Act brings accountability back to the regulatory process. I would agree that some regulations are necessary. We all want clean air and clean water. There's no doubt that we need that. We need a safe and healthy environment. We need safe food if we want to protect ourselves and our families. But regulations at what cost?

Through the rulemaking process, the EPA has put a new burdensome standard on water quality in Florida alone. With the numeric nutrient rule the EPA wants to take over the State's water system. And because they are Washington bureaucrats trying to create a D.C. solution for a Florida problem, the requirements they have set on the State of Florida are scientifically impossible to reach given our State's natural phosphorous levels in our waters. Compliance will require an investment of billions of dollars that will be passed on--to whom? The Florida taxpayers, of course, effectively resulting in a new tax levied on all Floridians. Another analysis estimates that the EPA rulemaking will impose statewide costs ranging from $3.1 billion to $8.4 billion per year for the next 30 years.

To put that in perspective, Florida's total budget is only $64 billion annually. The REINS Act is what people in Florida need and what people in the country need if we're going to keep executive agency rulemaking in check.

We've heard about a number of issues on this House floor. We've heard about issues as they relate to unemployment and to the payroll tax holiday. These issues, though, aren't what are in front of us today. It's really about the REINS Act. It's really about getting government off the backs of people. It's about making Congress accountable for the actions of the agencies that have their authority granted through Congress. It's not the other way around.

Regulatory agencies don't enact laws for Congress. Congress enacts laws. Congress enacts and gives the authority to those who regulate, but Congress can't walk away from its authority to oversee the rules, particularly the major rules, that are promulgated by these agencies--that are costing us jobs, that are costing us billions of dollars every year.

You've heard about it from all of my colleagues who spoke on this side of the aisle. I don't know when Congress lost its way--Representative Bishop talked about it years and years ago--but Congress did lose its way. It's so much easier to just pass a law and say, You know what? Let the regulatory folks figure out how this is going to shake out at the end.

That's not what we were elected to do. We were elected not only to pass laws but to make sure that the regulations that are proposed by those agencies that have the authority from this Congress are responsible to the people. We need to be responsible to the people who elected us, not the other way around--not responsible to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

It's what I hear from all the businesses in my district. It's what I hear from the people I represent. They want government to get out of the way, not to end all regulations like you hear some of my friends across the aisle say. That's not what we're talking about. We are, though, talking about a congressional review before it actually comes to pass so that we stand up as a body and say, You know what? This is just not good for America.

The Keystone pipeline is a perfect example of a jobs bill. They keep talking about the lack of jobs bills. Had the Keystone pipeline come to fruition, which the President has pushed off until 2013, there would have been 25,000 immediate jobs to create and construct that pipeline, and there would have been 100,000 new jobs within the areas of Texas and Louisiana as it relates to the processing of that oil.

The last time I looked, Canada was a friend, but we buy oil from countries that hate us. Do you know what Canada said?--that China is ready to step in and help them out. Is that really what we want, or do we want to bring jobs to America?

With all that has been said, we're to the point at which we need to talk about regulations, and that's what this bill does. It allows seven amendments that are germane to come to the floor--two Republican and five Democratic amendments.

With that, I am happy to support the rule and the underlying bill.

The material previously referred to by Ms. Slaughter is as follows:


At the end of the resolution, add the following new sections:

Sec. 4. Not later than December 16, 2011, the House of Representatives shall vote on passage of a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday beyond 2011, the title of which is as follows: `Payroll Tax Holiday Extension Act of 2011.'.

Sec. 5. Not later than December 16, 2011, the House of Representatives shall vote on passage of a bill to provide for the continuation of unemployment benefits, the title of which is as follows: `Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2011.'.

(The information contained herein was provided by the Republican Minority on multiple occasions throughout the 110th and 111th Congresses.)


This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Republican majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.

Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives (VI, 308-311), describes the vote on the previous question on the rule as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry, asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R-Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.''

Because the vote today may look bad for the Republican majority they will say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution ..... [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the Republican Leadership Manual on the Legislative Process in the United States House of Representatives, (6th edition, page 135). Here's how the Republicans describe the previous question vote in their own manual: ``Although it is generally not possible to amend the rule because the majority Member controlling the time will not yield for the purpose of offering an amendment, the same result may be achieved by voting down the previous question on the rule. ..... When the motion for the previous question is defeated, control of the time passes to the Member who led the opposition to ordering the previous question. That Member, because he then controls the time, may offer an amendment to the rule, or yield for the purpose of amendment.''

In Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.''

Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a rule does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Republican majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.


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