Western GOPs Exhort Congress to Take Back Regulatory Power
Western Republicans charged in a new report today that federal agencies have grown so powerful under the Obama administration that jobs and economic growth are being strangled by increasing red tape.
And, they said, it's only going to get worse unless the legislative branch takes its power back.
Citing the post-election "red-tape rush," the Senate and House Western Caucus members advocate congressional action to stop agency overreach into their regulatory domain.
“Over the past four years, we’ve watched the Obama administration repeatedly circumvent Congress in an attempt to regulate entire industries, like the coal industry, out of existence,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Western Caucus. “Until Congress regains control over the regulatory process, Washington agencies will continue to push forward with their job-crushing, anti-growth agendas."
The report cites the Environmental Protection Agency's rules that constitute the "war on coal," including the New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, and EPA’s Coal Combustion Residuals Rule.
"Industries need a fighting chance against EPA unfairly targeting their businesses in this way," the report states. "In order to do that, we need to give businesses the ability to challenge EPA’s flawed scientific data, stop judicial legislating through activist sue-and settle-tactics and create jobs by streamlining environmental permitting of job creating projects."
Currently, the caucuses note, the EPA's statements and figures can't be challenged in court under the Information Quality Act.
And even though regulatory reform has been championed for years, the report adds, executive orders to improve how agencies issue rules or requiring cost-benefit analyses are seldom followed, including President Ford’s Executive Order 11821, President Carter’s Executive Order 12044, President Reagan’s Executive Order 12291, and President Clinton’s Executive Order 12866.
Arguing Congress must take a greater role, the report pushes three pieces of legislation already passed in the House.
Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011 passed 253 - 167 more than a year ago. It would require a federal agency, in the rulemaking process, to make all preliminary and final factual determinations based on "substantial evidence." Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
Rep. Tim Griffin's (R-Ark.) Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act passed 245 - 172 at the end of July. It included the Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act of 2012, the Midnight Rule Relief Act of 2012, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2012, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2012, the Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2012, the SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, and the Tracking the Cost to Taxpayers of Federal Litigation Act. It also would require federal agencies to set standards for the scientific information being used in rulemaking.
"We have legislation that is ready right now to cut red tape and rein in Washington regulations," Barrasso said. "Congress should pass these bills immediately and give America’s job-creators the certainty they need to grow and create new jobs in the West and across the country.”
The number of "economically significant" rules issued by the administration peaked in 2010 at 224. In 2011, 212 such rules were issued. Comparatively, in the last year of George W. Bush's first term, there were 136 such rules issued.
"President Obama’s second term is expected to bring even more excessive regulations that burden small business owners and discourage job creation," the report says.
The reference to activists taking advantage of the culture of regulatory overreach to successfully wrest policy changes out of the administration could be seen just last week, when 250 species were put under review for the Endangered Species Act because of a court challenge by environmental groups.
“This proposed listing is a prime example of how the ESA is being driven by litigation instead of science. The Lesser Prairie Chicken was one of hundreds of species included in a settlement agreement between the Department of the Interior and litigious environmental organizations,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). ”Closed-door negotiations with high-paid lawyers whose fees are being subsidized by American taxpayers are not the proper way to make decisions on species listings and set a dangerous precedent that will have widespread impacts on job creation, economic growth and energy security.”
Today's report warns that things could only get worse in the next four years.
"For decades federal agencies have gained tremendous power at the expense of the American people. Under the Obama Administration, this process has greatly accelerated to unprecedented levels. At the same time liberal activist groups have taken advantage of this expansion of agency power to successfully push forward their agenda," it states. "Congress, as the elected representatives of the people, simply needs to reassert its constitutional role as the lawmaking authority to bring balance back to our system of government."
Some pending legislation aimed toward doing that is a bill by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to mandate that Congress approve any major agency rule that has an annual economic impact of $100 million or more in order for the rule to go into effect.
Fittingly, it's called the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. Hearings were held on the bill over the summer and it has 31 co-sponsors -- including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), whose state has taken a hit from coal regulations -- but hasn't been brought to the floor for a vote.
“Congress must act on legislation to end the red tape that is strangling job creators – particularly in the West,” said Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), chairman of the Western Caucus in the House. “The Obama administration continues to implement thousands of new overreaching regulations every month, at the cost of America’s small businesses and jobs."
"These crushing regulatory efforts play into the president’s ‘none-of-the-above’ energy plan, which continues to prevent job creation and places handcuffs on America’s employers," Pearce added. "With over 12.3 million Americans still out of work, now is not the time to increase the regulatory burdens already crippling our businesses.”