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Public Statements

Regulatory Reform and Regulatory Relief

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BARR. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this Special Order this evening. This is a very important topic, and I applaud Mr. Collins and Mr. Yoho for forming the Freshman Working Group on Regulatory Reform. Regulatory reform is desperately needed in this country to get our economy back on track.

We have seen persistent high unemployment in our country for the last 5 years. We got another bad jobs report just last week: 7.6 percent is the unemployment rate. But even more alarming than our persistent high unemployment rate is the fact that we have underemployment in this country. Only 58 percent of the American people who are eligible for employment who are of working-age population are actually employed. Only 58 percent.

Yes, we have a high unemployment rate. Yes, it has been persistently over 7.5 percent for the last 5 years. But even more troubling is the fact that only 58 percent of working-age people in this country are employed. That is 5 percent below the average employment rate for working-age people prior to the recession, and that number has been static for the last 5 years. So the question we have to ask ourselves is why is this happening; why are the American people not getting back to work.

Well, one of the primary impediments to economic recovery, to job growth, and job creation is the avalanche of new rules, regulations, and red tape coming out of Washington, all of which impose huge costs on businesses and create a destructive environment of uncertainty in the private sector. And it affects virtually every sector of our economy. It affects the health care sector with ObamaCare and the reams of regulations coming out of HHS. It affects the financial services industry with Dodd-Frank and all of the rulemakings. You know, Dodd-Frank authorizes over 400 new rules and regulations. A little more than half of those have been issued. According to certain estimates, compliance with those regulations equals about 24 million hours annually in man-hours to comply with the Dodd-Frank rules and regulations. To put that in perspective, 20 million man-hours was what was required to build the Panama Canal. This is literally an avalanche of rules and regulations crushing our financial institutions and impeding access to credit for entrepreneurs and small businesses. It's affecting the energy sector where environmental regulations are destroying jobs.

In my home State, the coal industry has been devastated by the EPA's assault on the coal industry through over-regulation of the energy sector. In most countries that conduct mining activities, about 2 years is the average length of time for a regulator to review an application for mining. In the United States today, it takes 7 years for EPA regulators just to review and approve a surface mining permit.

So this backlog and this overregulation of mining activities is resulting in massive layoffs. Mining in central Appalachia is at its lowest production level since 1965. We've lost 4,000 coal mining jobs in just the last couple of years in eastern Kentucky as a result of the EPA's overzealous overregulation of the coal industry.

Yes, it's driving utility rates higher. Yes, it is certainly bad in terms of low-cost electricity for our manufacturers and small businesses and our seniors on fixed income, but it's also costing jobs. And it's having a negative impact on all of those people whose paychecks take care of their families.

We talked about the impact on health care. I had an administrator of a local small hospital in central Kentucky tell me that it used to be that they took care of patients. Today they take care of paper.

A small banker, community banker in eastern Kentucky told me that it used to be, in the community banking business, that they would provide loans and make a business decision based on the creditworthiness of the borrower, whether it was a farmer or a small business owner or an entrepreneur. Today, this banker says that the government makes that decision for them because of the avalanche of new rules and regulations.

There's another important dimension to this in addition to impeding economic recovery, and that's our Constitution. For the last 80 years, the growth of the administrative state has been a huge detractor from the original meaning of our Constitution. It has been offensive to the separation of powers doctrine. And one need only look to article I, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which simply reads:

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Mr. Speaker, the word ``all'' should be recognized as granting the Congress exclusive legislative power. And yet, for the last 80 years, as the administrative state has grown in Washington, the Congress has delegated its lawmaking powers to unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch. And so what we need to do in Congress is we need to rehabilitate what's known as the nondelegation doctrine, the idea that Congress shouldn't delegate away its lawmaking powers to another branch of the government.

In the last several years, we've seen a dramatic growth in the regulatory burden on the private economy. The pages in the Code of Federal Regulations hit an all-time high of 174,000 pages in 2012. That's an increase of more than 21 percent during the last decade.

In 2012, the cost of Federal rules exceeded $1.8 trillion, roughly equal to the gross domestic product of Canada, which is about $1.81 trillion, and India, $1.82 trillion.

The regulatory burden cost each U.S. household approximately $14,768, meaning that red tape is now the second largest item in the typical family budget after housing.

And in 2012, 4,062 Federal regulations were at various stages of implementation. The government completed work on 1,172, an increase of 16 percent over the 1,010 that the Feds imposed in 2011, which was a 40 percent increase over the 722 in 2010.

And another measure of the regulatory burden, the pages in the Federal Register. By that measure, the Obama administration did not break the all-time record of 81,405 pages it set in 2010. But the 78,961 pages it churned out in 2012 mean that the President has posted three of the four greatest paperwork years on record.

Mr. Speaker, this avalanche of red tape is strangling American economic recovery. It is an offense to the Constitution of the United States, and it lacks all common sense. For the sake of the U.S. Constitution, for the sake of economic recovery, for the sake of common sense, and for the sake of the American people who are suffering in one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, we need to rein in burdensome regulations.


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