Opinion

Starting a regulatory “revolution”

Howard Rich Chairman, Americans for Limited Government

The rescue of America from decades of government overreaching — capped by two years of full-blown socialism — won’t be accomplished overnight. And while the federal government’s descent into fiscal madness (and regulatory mania) has accelerated exponentially following the election of Barack Obama, it is not enough to merely undo the damage done by the current administration.

A complete ideological reversal and radical rethinking of government’s role in our society is necessary.

In surveying the political landscape following the 2010 elections — and contemplating the possibility of additional Democratic losses in 2012 — there is no shortage of opinions as to how a revived Republican Party can use its rediscovered political relevance to further these objectives. Obviously repealing “Obamacare” in its entirety and permanently extending tax relief for all income brackets are two items which reside at the top of the list for many free market supporters — which makes sense.

But beyond these big-ticket objectives (which will likely require another election cycle to complete) what can the GOP do now to begin fulfilling its obligation to America’s not-so-silent pro-taxpayer majority?

For starters, Republicans can begin using their newfound oversight authority to force up-or-down votes on some of the Obama administration’s most egregious regulations — including unconstitutional environmental edicts, organized labor paybacks and the numerous anti-free market provisions of “Obamacare.” Beyond blocking new legislation, Republicans will also be able to limit the damage done by recently-passed laws simply by utilizing the Congressional Review Act — which gives Congress two months to pass “resolutions of disapproval” that effectively ban overreaching executive regulations.

How important is this power?

Consider the so-called “endangerment finding” regarding greenhouse gases, which was issued in December 2009 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This finding was Obama’s attempt to achieve by fiat what he could not accomplish legislatively via a “cap-and-trade” energy tax hike. In June, the Senate narrowly approved this unconstitutional, economically-crippling edict — but with six new Republican votes (and a newly-elected Democrat who opposes the regulation) ready to enter the chamber next year, prospects for its repeal are promising.

Certainly future attempts to usurp Congressional authority in the interests of promoting a radical environmental agenda face a decidedly uphill climb.

Also facing a much steeper upward slope will be Obama’s efforts to gut disclosure requirements for labor union bosses. As part of his payback to organized labor for tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, Obama is trying to reopen the door to union corruption by cutting down on the number of labor leaders required to disclose conflicts of interest. His administration is also seeking to redefine what constitutes a conflict in the first place, thereby expanding the universe of “permissible” behavior.

Armed with expanded regulatory oversight, Republicans in Congress should be able to resist the administration on both of these fronts — enhancing accountability and protecting workers from being exploited.

Obviously the most fertile ground for Republicans when it comes to flexing their newly-acquired regulatory muscle is the line-by-line, word-by-word trench warfare they can now wage against the implementation of “Obamacare.” For example, previously small-scale skirmishes — such as the law’s failure to properly define “dependents” or its botched imposition of a new “tanning tax” — now loom as much larger battles given the GOP’s ability to block the promulgation of flawed regulations. Also, big battles over key provisions of the law — like a “medical loss ratio” rule designed to put a stranglehold on private health care plans — can now be waged much more effectively.

In fact not only do these rules now face a much harsher regulatory review process, they will also be subject to the scalpel of House budget writers — who can simply refuse to pay for the enforcement of regulations they don’t like.

While none of these debates will receive nearly the same attention as the protracted war to repeal “Obamacare” or the debate over taxes, these regulatory battles are where the rubber meets the road in the fight to save our nation from a culture of entitlement and dependency.

Republicans may not be able to snap their fingers and instantaneously accomplish all of their objectives in January, but the “regulatory revolution” against Washington bureaucrats and their mountains of red tape can — and should — begin in earnest.

Howard Rich is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.