On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Government Oversight and Investigations met for the first time this year to discuss President Obama’s executive order to review of all federal regulation. Among the Republican majority on the subcommittee, there was clear consensus: Regulatory uncertainty has been harmful for the economy and new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) need thorough scrutiny.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the subcommittee, pointed out in his opening statement that in the regulatory agenda released last fall, the Obama administration revealed it was developing more than 4,000 new rules. The EPA alone has implemented 928 new regulations in the last two years.
Stearns went on to call the number of new regulations “breathtaking, given the nation’s dire economic situation.”
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas slammed the witness, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Cass Sunstein, saying, “I don’t see that your organization has done anything to slow down” the onslaught of regulations.
Barton went on to note every independent analysis he has looked at shows the EPA regulations would cost millions of jobs.
Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, offered the clearest foreshadowing of how Republicans will tackle regulatory review. “I have asked our committee members to track down burdensome regulations that choke investment and destroy jobs,” said Upton. “We will identify these regulations, shine a light on them, and then seek repeal.”
Several Republican members pressed Sunstein several times to say that the EPA regulation will, in fact, be subject to review per the president’s executive order.
The Democrats on the subcommittee, led by ranking member Rep. Diana DeGette, agreed that “no one like bad regulations,” but regulations per se are not the problem. “We must recognize, however, how important regulations are to our national welfare,” said DeGette. “The mantra that regulations are inherently bad and kill jobs is just wrong and dangerous.”
In a memo circulated among the Democratic members, Reps. DeGette and Henry Waxman said the use of regulations is necessary to reduce harmful pollutants. They also defended the use of Clean Air Act. “The lesson of the Clean Air Act regulations is that cleaner air, a healthier population, and technology improvements that result in a stronger economy go hand-in-hand,” they wrote.
Sunstein also said the regulatory review will not inhibit the implementation of the Food Safety Act or the health-care law.