House Republicans have taken the first step toward yet another confrontation with President Obama over the limits of executive power, moving forward with a bill that would essentially give Congress veto power over major regulatory initiatives.
The REINS Act -- an acronym for the tortuously-named Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act -- would require any major rule propagated by the executive branch to be jointly approved by the House and Senate before it is allowed to take effect.
The definition of a “major rule” in the legislation is vague enough that it is difficult to tell just what would fall under that classification for purposes of the proposal. According to the text of the bill, a rule is considered major if the Office of Management and Budget determines that it will likely have one of three effects:
- an annual effect on the economy of $100,000,000 or more;
- a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; or
- significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets.
Sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), the bill had 171 co-sponsors and passed the House Tuesday 243-165, with all Republicans voting in favor and all but two Democrats voting against.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) expressed support for the rule. “Having run a small business, I know how tough it can be to make payroll and stay afloat when you’re worried about every new rule or mandate Washington throws your way.”
He added, “The REINS Act will help by giving Congress – the people’s representatives – the opportunity to stop new rules that will hurt the economy or raise costs for hardworking families. It would put a much-needed check on Washington bureaucrats who have no idea what it takes to run a business. And, it would prevent the administration from unleashing a flood of new rules before the president leaves office.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has introduced companion legislation in the Senate, which is co-sponsored by 36 other senators and is currently before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
The bill is particularly popular with groups dedicated to reducing regulatory burden on the private sector. Some, like Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., policy director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, believe it would correct what they see as a long-ago error: the delegation of authority to the executive branch that allows federal agencies wide discretion in writing implementing regulations.
“Congress never should have delegated to unelected bureaucrats the sweeping lawmaking power they now possess, and this legislation shouldn’t even be necessary,” Crews wrote.
The Obama administration has threatened a veto over past iterations of the REINS Act. In the last Congress, a statement of administration policy read, “This radical departure from the longstanding separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches would delay and, in many cases, thwart implementation of statutory mandates and execution of duly-enacted laws, create business uncertainty, undermine much-needed protections of the American public, and cause unnecessary confusion.”