Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said members of Congress want all of the credit for passing laws but none of the blame for the implementation of those same laws.
Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee, advocated for passage of the REINS Act as a way to hold Congress accountable for the laws that are passed.
He said the Founding Fathers did not anticipate that lawmakers would have an “insatiable appetite to punt wherever possible.”
Lee’s comments were made during a speech about his new book, Our Lost Constitution.
“Imagine the following scenario. Let’s imagine if you had a Congress that said, ‘we’re tired of bad laws in this country, we want to have good laws and so we’re going to pass a law, it’s going to be called the good law and it’s going to say we shall have good law and we hereby delegate to the herewith commission on good laws the power to promulgate good laws and enforce the same,’” Lee said during a book discussion sponsored by the Federalist Society.
“Well, if that sounds ridiculous to you, and it should, consider the fact that this is exactly what we have done – exactly with only one distinction – we have sliced it up and given it to a lot of different alphabet soup agencies out there, but that’s what we’ve done. It’s all about members of Congress wanting all of the credit and none of the blame. Credit for aspiring to achieve laudable goals but none of the blame that inevitably comes along with actually legislating and actually making difficult line-drawing decisions, and this is a big problem,” he added.
Lee said passage of the REINS Act, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in the last session of Congress, is a possible solution to the problem.
According to the Library of Congress, the bill “requires a joint resolution of approval of major rules to be enacted before such rules may take effect.” It also “provides that if a joint resolution of approval is not enacted by the end of 70 session days or legislative days, as applicable, after the agency proposing the rule submits its report on such rule to Congress, the major rule shall be deemed not to be approved and shall not take effect.”
Paul has said regulations imposed by federal agencies that cost more than $100 million should be sent back to Congress for approval, which is a part of the REINS Act.
“That would go a long way toward reasserting our authority and reasserting the balance of powers,” he said.
Lee, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the power to legislate, which was granted to Congress in the U.S. Constitution, means “the power to make law, not the power to make lawmakers.”
“The people elected to serve in the House and Senate stand accountable to their voters every 2 years in the House and every 6 years in the case of senators, and those who promulgate executive branch regulations do not,” Lee said.
“It is not to suggest that there is anything categorically wrong with those who serve in the executive branch agencies – they are good well-educated, well-intentioned people – but they’re not accountable to the people, and Congress needs to stand accountable for the laws that are passed.”