Yesterday, the United States House passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act, H.R. 10)) by a 241-184 vote. No Republican voted against the bill, while only 4 democrats voted for it.
Congress often delegates significant power to government agencies. As a result, these agencies have an excessive amount of discretion to develop a wide range of costly regulations (e.g., EPA and greenhouse gas rules).
Agencies often interpret statutes in an unreasonable manner, pushing the envelope in an effort to expand their power (e.g. FCC and net neutrality).
The result is that unelected and unaccountable political appointees and bureaucrats develop the most significant policies affecting the nation. Congress, which is the lawmaking body and whose members can be voted out of office, isn’t making these policy decisions.
For decades, there’s been an attempt to create a mechanism for Congress to have some review over the work of agencies. In 1996, Congress passed the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to disapprove regulations if both chambers pass a bill to do so. However, this law has proven to be toothless, as one might suspect, with only the Clinton Administration’s ergonomics rule getting shot down through the CRA.
To restore accountability to the system, the REINS Act requires that major rules, defined as, among other things, having an economic impact of $100 million or more, must be approved by both chambers of Congress. The assumption is the regulations won’t go into effect absent Congressional action, whereas with the CRA, the assumption is the regulations will go into effect.
There may be some technical legal issues that exist with this bill, but its purpose and general approach is critical to ensuring that Congress plays its role in making laws, as opposed to the Executive Branch which has no such constitutional role.
The House on Wednesday approved a measure that would increase Congress’s authority over the executive branch by making any major regulations subject to its approval.
This statement is misleading. Congress already had the authority in question. There’s no increase in authority–Congress is simply creating better oversight to ensure powers it delegated to the Executive Branch aren’t being abused.
I could write a book on this, and might, but here’s a nice summary and analysis of the law here.