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Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman from Tennessee for his distinguished leadership and friendship, and the chairman of the full committee, because I believe that it is fair to have a difference of opinion. It is also fair to say that there are times when we have a great opportunity to work together.

I believe the gentleman mentioned my tenure on the Judiciary Committee, so let me document for my colleagues: the REINS Act goes around and around and around and around. It is constantly repeated and reintroduced, and it constantly fails.

For the new Members, my friends on the other side of the aisle who are standing up and talking about what a great impact this would have, they are using old data and misinterpretation, for there is no real documentation that the REINS Act is going to stop $1.5 trillion in excess cost. In fact, the authors of the study that my friends are using--the study was assessed by the Congressional Research Service.

I know when I speak to the American people and my colleagues they want to debunk all of this procedure and say ``enough is enough.'' But the CRS showed that the study was flawed, but more importantly, the author said: ``We never intended for this to determine benefits to regulation. Our studies have nothing to do with it.''

We cannot document the $1.5 trillion or the billions of dollars that our friends say that they're going to lose. They know full well that there is a procedure of disapproval that Congress can respond to the needs and the questions of the American public.

What they do not tell you is that this procedure--oh, I hate to talk about it. Please let me apologize. If you hear it, your eyes will roll back in your head, for what has to happen now is that the agency is doing its work. The DOD, Health and Human Services, the Department of Education are doing their work under existing law. They are trying to work on clean air and clean water, safe toys, safe cars, and safe workplaces.

By the way, I offered an amendment to exempt children's regulations for babies who are 2 and under, and I was denied by the majority, by the Republican Rules Committee, so that babies who need safe cribs and toys now have to have this happen. Unless both Houses of Congress pass a joint resolution--let me tell you how long that might take--2 years, 3 years, five sessions, who knows--and then such rule within a fixed 70-legislative-day period, it kicks over into the next Congress. In the meantime, babies' heads are driven through cribs.

Those of us who are mothers know that era. It hasn't stopped. Each time, you have to look at the technology of cribs--or of toys that they choke on--and be able to discern how newborns are impacted. The Consumer Product Safety Commission can't effectively put a regulation in. Mothers understand that. Can you imagine a resolution of two Houses of Congress? Right now, we can't even get a budget resolution going forward.

I will tell you what the American people want us to do. It's not the REINS Act, which goes around and around. I think it was in the 112th Congress and in the 111th Congress. We are now in the 113th, and we will do it in the 114th. It does not save money. The American people want a solution-based budgeting process. They want us to go back to the budget reconciliation. They want us to stop laying off, as my good friend from Connecticut said, hardworking Defense workers, hardworking Homeland Security workers, hardworking Department of Education workers, who are trying to help this country be better. They want us to reduce the deficit. I will raise my hand for that. That is a good thing. They want us to create jobs, and they want us to be fair to the middle class.

I come from Texas. One of the worst disasters ever to occur was in West, Texas--the tragedy and the devastation of the loss of our fellow Americans in an explosion that should not have happened. What was the cry? What was the Federal Government doing? What was the regulatory scheme in order to prevent whatever ignited that terrible tragedy to see the loss of first responders?

The Federal Government is an umbrella on a rainy day. Fix the problems of regulation one by one. If there is one that is undermining small businesses, we are happy to do the disapproval process, and you can be assured that the voices of the American people will cry out. I can tell you that there is no proof--no legitimacy, no documentation--but anecdotal stories of, I hate the Federal Government. I don't hate the Federal Government. I pledge allegiance to this great flag and to this great Nation. I love my country. Therefore, I understand that it is the umbrella on a rainy day.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the distinguished gentleman for his kindness.

Mr. Chairman, the reason we had to reassess the Army Corps of Engineers and have a regulatory scheme is that we lost almost 1,000-plus individuals in Hurricane Katrina. It wasn't the hurricane that had come through; it was the dam that broke. I know it well because I walked those streets of the Ninth Ward, and I saw the babies' shoes and the clothing hanging on closets and the whole area that was literally destroyed and that killed 1,000 people.

It's the regulatory structure of what kind of oversight was given, what regulatory structure the Army Corps was working under, what oversight they gave, what the regulation period was in which they had to review these kinds of structures around America. Then people wanted us to get in and get something accomplished. So I am just perplexed that there is no evidence whatsoever that this will create jobs, and it does not answer, by any means, how this government can work better.

I started to say to the gentleman from Tennessee that we all love this country--we pledge allegiance to the flag in our schools and in this body--and I wish my friends on the other side of the aisle would find some other way that we could work together. They talk about Obama administration regulations. My friends, they have been submitting this over and over again. These regulations have been carried forward from the Bush administration. This is not from the Obama administration.

Let me close by saying that I want clean air, that I want clean water, that I want our babies to be safe in their cribs and playpens. I am appalled that they put this legislation on the floor as something new when this is as old as Methuselah and, I might say, has limited value. As we would say in Texas, it's something that would be very doubtful. I'll leave it at that because we usually talk Texan in Texas, and I'm not there now.

What I will tell you is that we have ways of explaining how things are not relevant. This is not relevant, and it does not equate to a State legislature at all. This is for the United States of America. You cannot put the REINS Act in place and talk about jobs. I simply ask that we defeat this bill and pass these amendments that have been offered by Democrats, who want to make sure that we address the question of the American people.

I leave this podium by saying to the gentleman from Tennessee: Is it ludicrous to place as a responsibility of the Congress a 70-day window for two Houses to pass a resolution when we did not and were not able to pass a student loan effort for months and months, which, by the

way, was made better by Senate Democrats? Is it reasonable?


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Congress adopted the current system over a hundred years ago because it recognized the necessity of assigning the job of crafting appropriate regulations to the scientific, economic, legal, and other experts in agencies. The REINS Act is an extreme departure from current procedures designed only to stymie the development of regulations with which the industry does not want to comply.

The current system of administrative agencies of the federal government began more than 100 years ago, and developed through the 20th century. It was codified in its present form in the Administrative Procedures Act. The REINS Act guts this precedent, and replaces it with insurmountable hurdles.

Congress already has the power to stop regulations if extreme circumstances dictate under the Congressional Review Act. The REINS Act requires agencies to submit new final rules to Congress for review, delaying the effective date of those rules to permit Congress to block them, and establishes a fast-track process for legislation proposed to overrule a regulation.

The bill would make it virtually impossible for an approval resolution to pass because it does not entirely prohibit a filibuster. Since the bill does not clearly prohibit a filibuster in the Senate, more specifically it does not prohibit a filibuster on a motion to take up a matter, it would empower a few, or even one Senator, to block regulations.

The legislation gives Congress a short 70-day window to approve a regulation, and if either chamber fails to do so during that time period, the regulation is deemed to have been rejected, and Congress is barred from subsequently voting to approve the regulation or one ``substantially similar'' to it for the remainder of that Congress. The 70-day requirement will make it next to impossible for any regulations to be approved.

Resolutions approving regulations would first have to be cleared by committees. The vast majority of bills introduced in Congress die in committee, and there is no reason to believe that new regulations wouldn't suffer the same fate.

Claims about so-called ``job-killing'' regulations are a fabrication, a reiteration of the same doomsday rhetoric that has been used to oppose virtually every major step forward for health and safety. In actuality, the REINS Act is about giving representatives of industry more opportunities to kill regulations they find inconvenient, posing a great detriment to public safety and health.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, let me thank my colleagues. Whenever they engage in debate, I know they have a serious commitment to the process of this House and this Nation.

But I rise today to offer an amendment, and I hope that it addresses the chairman's offer of legislative collegiality. If this is such an important effort, then I believe that the amendments that have been offered by my colleagues, and the one that I introduce as we speak, are ones that makes this bill reasonable.

My amendment would except from the bill's congressional approval requirement any rule promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security organized and established in the backdrop of the heinous and tragic terrorist act of 9/11. In fact, I can't imagine this legislation being effective in the midst of tragedy and devastation.

I don't think my friend understands that there's nothing in the REINS Act that prevents a filibuster. A filibuster means that we will never get a resolution voted on by the two Houses--never--because it does not negate a filibuster.

So in the midst of a crisis, where people are in need of relief by the Department of Homeland Security, such as the Department of Homeland Security having to act quickly to establish new or emergency regulations in the protection of critical infrastructure, here it comes, the dastardly REINS Act. I think we would be better off right now to be debating H.R. 900 to eliminate the sequestration to bring jobs back to America.

But I hope that this amendment will be considered, because I can't imagine the very Department that was established to put its foot in the gap now is going to be hindered by the REINS Act.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.

To the contrary, to my good friend from Virginia, the bill does not entirely prohibit a filibuster. In fact, a filibuster can be used on the procedural motion to bring the bill up, and in the Senate they can never bring this up.

So let me remind my friends:

Galveston, 6,000 people dead and climbing, 1900; Hurricane Katrina, one of the 10 worst, killing 1,836 in 2005; 1980, a heat wave in the southern and central States killing 1,700; Chicago heat wave in 1995.

Disasters that need the relief that the American people deserve.

This tells us what we will be facing while a filibuster is going on in the Senate. This is a map only of this year. Already disasters in Washington State with mud slides, Oklahoma with tornados, Arizona with wildfires, Miami with mud slides.

Then they want to block Homeland Security from developing regulations for infrastructure, they want to stop what is going on with Hurricane Sandy and the repair that is needed and the infrastructure with something called the REINS Act, which, as I said earlier, goes around and around and around.

I hope my colleagues will support this amendment, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I am glad the gentleman pointed us out to pages 12 to 14, because he indicated a number of procedural hula hoops that we have to jump through. Each of those procedural hula hoops will be subject to a filibuster.

But this is what the American people go through: Here is a tornado or an earthquake, here is Hurricane Sandy. There are a variety of issues that it results in. Here is a wildfire.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me thank the gentleman.

I would like to ask my colleagues to be sensible and realize that you cannot control the other body.

This amendment is a sensible amendment that responds to the outcry of wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes. The American people are looking for the Department of Homeland Security to be able to focus on the infrastructure repair, the regulatory scheme and structure to respond to an emergency.

This bill does not deal with emergencies. It deals with an elongated process that, unfortunately, will drown, if you will, the people with a regulatory structure that does not provide them with the relief that first responders need or the people need.

I ask my colleagues of this House to be sensible and vote for the Jackson Lee amendment.

[Begin Insert]
My amendment would exempt from the bill's Congressional approval requirement any rule promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security. As a Senior Member of the Homeland Security and Ranking Member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, I am very concerned about any legislation that would hinder the Department of Homeland Security's ability to respond to an emergency.

The bill would add new review requirements to an already long and complicated process, allowing special interest lobbyists to second-guess the work of respected scientists and staff through legal challenges, sparking a wave of litigation that would add more costs and delays to the rulemaking process, potentially putting the lives, health and safety of millions of Americans at risk.

The Department of Homeland Security simply does not have the time to be hindered by frivolous and unnecessary litigation, especially when the safety and security of the American people are at risk.

According to a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, public protections and regulations ``do not tend to significantly impede job creation'', and furthermore, over the course of the last several decades, the benefits of federal regulations have significantly outweighed their costs.

There is no need for this legislation, aside from the need of some of my colleagues to protect corporate interests. This bill would make it more difficult for the government to protect its citizens, and in the case of the Department of Homeland Security, it endangers the lives of our citizens.

In our post 9/11 climate, homeland security continues to be a top priority for our nation. As we continue to face threats from enemies foreign and domestic, we must ensure that we are doing all we can to protect our country. DHS cannot react to the constantly changing threat landscape effectively if they are subject to this bill.

Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, we have overhauled the government in ways never done before. Steps have been taken to ensure that the communication failures that led to 9/11 do not happen again. The Department of Homeland Security has helped push the United States forward in how protect our nation. Continuing to make advance in Homeland security and intelligence is the best way to combat the threats we still face.

The Department of Homeland Security is tasked with a wide variety of duties under its mission. One example of an instance where DHS may have to act quickly to establish new or emergency regulations is the protection of our cyber security.

In the past few years, threats in cyberspace have risen dramatically. The policy of the United States is to protect against the debilitating disruption of the operation of information systems for critical infrastructures and, thereby, help to protect the people, economy, and national security of the United States.

We are all affected by threats to our cyber security. We must act to reduce our vulnerabilities to these threats before they can be exploited. A failure to protect our cyber systems would damage our Nation's critical infrastructure. So, we must continue to ensure that such disruptions of cyberspace are infrequent, of minimal duration, manageable, and cause the least possible damage.

Like other national security challenges in the post 9/11 era, the cyber threat is multifaceted and without boundaries. Some cyber attackers are foreign nations' that utilize their military or intelligence-gathering operations, whereas others are either operating alone or are connected to terrorist groups. In addition, there are cyber threats that are international or domestic criminal enterprises.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the number of cyber incidents reported by Federal agencies to USCERT has increased dramatically over the past four years, from 5,503 cyber incidents reported in FY 2006 to about 30,000 cyber incidents in FY 2009 (over a 400 percent increase).

The four most prevalent types of cyber incidents and events reported to US-CERT during FY 2009 were malicious code; improper usage; unauthorized access and incidents warranting further investigations (unconfirmed malicious or anomalous activity).

Critical infrastructure in the nation is composed of public and private institutions in the sectors of agriculture, food, water, public health, emergency services, government, defense industrial base, information and telecommunications, energy, transportation, banking and finance, chemicals and hazardous materials, and postal and shipping.

With cyberspace as their central nervous system--it is the control system of our country. Cyberspace is composed of hundreds of thousands of interconnected computers, servers, routers, switches, and fiber optic cables that allow our critical infrastructures to work. Thus, the healthy, secure, and efficient functioning of cyberspace is essential to both our economy and our national security.

In light of an attack that threatens the United State's cyber protection, Homeland Security officials may need to issue emergency regulations quickly. Attacks can be sent instantly in cyber space, and the protection of our critical infrastructure cannot be mitigated by cumbersome bureaucracy.

The Department of Homeland Security is also tasked with combating terrorism, and protecting Americans from threats.

With the current unrest in the Middle East, why would we want to limit DHS's ability to do its job?

The Department of Homeland Security is constantly responding to new intelligence and threats from the volatile Middle East and around the globe. We must not tie the hands of those trusted to protect us from these threats.

Hindering the ability of DHS to make changes to rules and regulations puts the entire country at risk. As the Representative for the 18th District of Texas, I know about vulnerabilities in security firsthand. Of the 350 major ports in America, the Port of Houston is the one of the busiest.

More than 220 million tons of cargo moved through the Port of Houston in 2011, and the port ranked first in foreign waterborne tonnage for the 15th consecutive year. The port links Houston with over 1,000 ports in 203 countries, and provides 785,000 jobs throughout the state of Texas. Maritime ports are centers of trade, commerce, and travel along our nation's coastline, protected by the Coast Guard, under the direction of DHS.

If Coast Guard intelligence has evidence of a potential attack on the port of Houston, I want the Department of Homeland Security to be able to protect my constituents, by issuing the regulations needed without being subject to the constraints of this bill.

The Department of Homeland Security deserves an exemption not only because they may need to quickly change regulations in response to new information or threats, but also because they are tasked with emergency preparedness and response.

There are many challenges our communities face when we are confronted with a catastrophic event or a domestic terrorist attack. It is important for people to understand that our capacity to deal with hurricanes directly reflects our ability to respond to a terrorist attack in Texas or New York, an earthquake in California, or a nationwide pandemic flu outbreak.

On any given day the City of Houston and cities across the United States face a widespread and ever-changing array of threats, such as: terrorism, organized crime, natural disasters and industrial accidents.

Cities and towns across the nation face these and other threats. Indeed, every day, ensuring the security of the homeland requires the interaction of multiple Federal departments and agencies, as well as operational collaboration across Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. We can hinder the Department of Homeland Security's ability to protect the safety and security of the American people.

I urge my colleagues to support the Jackson Lee amendment in order to ensure that life saving regulations promulgated by the Department of Homeland Security are not unnecessarily delayed by this legislation.


Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the gentleman from Tennessee.

Mr. Chairman, I beg to differ with my good friend who has offered this amendment, which is even more extreme.

I proceeded to read the sections that my good chairman referred me to on how expeditious this process would be in the United States Senate. It's unworkable.

How does anyone think that the Senate is going to pass this bill? They've never passed it because what it says is that you're going to kick the resolution out of committee, that you're going to discharge it, and then you're going to move it beyond all of their rules. You're literally abolishing the Senate's rules that they have not redone themselves. They never got an agreement on ending a filibuster, so I have no idea as to issues of security and safety as it relates to homeland security or of the issues dealing with fuel and greenhouse gases, which have decidedly impacted positively the American people as it relates to emissions.

Now we're going from $100 million to $50 million, which, I hate to say, in a country of this size means that we are going to multiply the number of resolutions on this body that has really been slow in the passing of any legislation. Then we are going to move to the Senate, and we are going to tell the Senate committees, If you don't act in 15 days, we're discharging this. Then we will expect the Senate to pass this bill, which is the only way that it's going to get to the President's desk.

I might also say to my good friend from Tennessee, over and over again, we keep talking about what President Obama's administration has done. If this is about President Obama, that's one thing. If this is about creating jobs, the President has offered the American Jobs Act, and we have introduced a bill that has been calculated to have helped create jobs and stop the bleeding of the economy.

I am glad my good friend talked about the success of the Dow. That translates into jobs if we get rid of the sequester. There is a bill that will get rid of it, H.R. 900, offered by Mr. Conyers, which many of us have cosponsored. Where is the debate on the floor of the House of that?

I would simply say that we are now going from the extreme to the very extreme, and you're going to see a pounding of regulations. Moms and dads and children--families--municipalities, places need clean air, clean water. They need better emissions to the extent that it helps with clean air. They need safety. They need security. Now we are going to pile it up with those that may cost $50 million.

How absurd is that in terms of the legislative schedule of this place and the legislative schedule of the United States Senate? Now, I'm not saying anyone is going to shuck off any work--we welcome that--but you have the regular order of legislation. Then every time an amendment comes up--now $50 million--then you're going to say that this must kick in.

I ask my colleagues to reject this amendment because it simply will not work.


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