Lawmakers Try to Roll Back Executive Power in Rulemaking

WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has proposed a bill that would make Congress responsible for the economic costs of federal regulations rather than unelected officials in federal agencies.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) joined Lee to formally introduce the Article I Regulatory Budget Reform Act, which would require Congress to cast a vote on the “total regulatory burden” federal agencies are able to enforce on the private sector each fiscal year.

“Federal regulations come with a cost, albeit a hidden one. The American people can look up in the federal budget and see a monetary cost for the IRS and the EPA. They should also be able to look up what the regulatory cost for these agencies are as well. Beyond making the cost of federal regulation transparent, a regulatory budget will help restore accountability for the cost of regulation onto the people’s elected representatives,” Hensarling said at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington.

“With a regulatory budget, it would become so much more difficult for members of Congress to simply pass the buck and blame the faceless, nameless bureaucrats for the cost of regulations on the American people’s families and their businesses,” he added.

Lee argued that most of the major bills Congress has passed only “establish aspirational guidelines,” which gives the executive branch the power to determine the specifics. He said Congress should establish “regulatory-cost limits” for federal agencies to follow.

“For the rule-writing bureaucrats, these open-ended laws are gifts that keep on giving. For instance, in the years since Congress first passed the Clean Air Act in 1977, federal bureaucrats have used the law to enact more than 13,500 pages of regulations – roughly 30 pages for every page of legislative text,” Lee said.

“But for the American people, this kind of government without consent is a violation of the social compact at the heart of our republic and exactly why they no longer trust the federal government,” he added.

Brat said the war between left and right portrayed in the media is a “false narrative” because lawmakers on both sides are spending trillions of dollars each fiscal year.

He recalled meeting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the White House Christmas Party and telling him that he only sees every lawmaker “in the middle doling out $4 trillion in the budget.”

Brat said Sanders replied, “Oh, yeah, Dave, what the hell do you think is going on up here? That’s what’s going on up here.”

“So when you have Dave Brat and Bernie agreeing on the fundamentals of how this place works, that’s why this project is so important,” Brat said.

Hensarling said he could do “without” having the experience of partying with Sanders at the White House.

“Great mischief has been done in small bills. Great mischief has been done in large bills as well,” he said. “It is easier to hide the mischief in a large bill.”