Regulation takes center stage

Sam Batkins Contributor
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This is “Regulation Week” on Capitol Hill. A presidential address and five congressional hearings have put the regulatory state, all 563 agencies, front and center. Politicians are beginning to understand that the EPA, the FCC and other regulatory bodies have a profound impact on job creation and economic freedom.

Acting without Congress, both the EPA and the FCC have begun implementing onerous regulatory overhauls that would impact the entire energy sector and the Internet. The House, it appears, is happy to remind regulators that the legislative power remains with Congress, not bureaucrats.

Regulation Week started on Monday when President Obama crossed Lafayette Park to address job creation and regulation at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As the president remarked, “I’ve ordered a government-wide review, and if there are rules on the books that are needlessly stifling job creation and economic growth, we will fix them.”

On Wednesday, Chairman Fred Upton called EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to the Hill to testify on what will likely be the first of many hearings on CO2 regulation. At least ten new bills have been introduced to strip or limit the EPA’s power.

Chairman Upton is rightly concerned with the EPA’s new power grab. According to Regulatory Impact Analyses published by the EPA, new and pending regulations could impose economic costs of more than $143 billion and cost close to 100,000 jobs. These figures don’t even take into account CO2 regulation or pending cooling tower regulations that could cost thousands of additional jobs.

On Thursday, a House Judiciary Subcommittee and the House Oversight Committee examined the regulatory state and impediments to job creation. With five regulatory hearings in one week, more are sure to follow as the administration continues to implement Dodd-Frank and its health care overhaul.

Thankfully, the flood of new regulations last year (close to 6,000 new rules) has been met with a strong legislative response on Capitol Hill to limit unaccountable regulatory agencies. Several pieces of legislation have been proposed that would either limit the administration’s overreach or reform the regulatory process to guarantee that Congress has some say in how 563 agencies regulate our $14.8 trillion economy.

Congress’s current oversight tool, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), has proven to be largely toothless, voiding only one regulation during its 15-year history.

The REINS Act (H.R. 10), introduced last month by Congressman Geoff Davis, has already garnered 115 cosponsors. It would subject all “major regulations” — those with annual economic impacts exceeding $100 million — to congressional oversight before final implementation. If no approval resolution is passed in Congress within 70 legislative days of a new rule’s publication, then the rule would not take effect.

This new approval process would be a vast improvement over the CRA. Instead of Congress taking the authoritative step to disapprove of regulations already in motion, the REINS Act would allow Congress to review major regulations and have a role in the regulatory process. With 131 major regulations under review by the Office of Management and Budget, Congress will be busy.

When Regulation Week concludes on the Hill, there will still be hundreds of regulations that businesses must navigate. Not until Congress forces the president’s hand by presenting him with real regulatory reform, or the president moves past the rhetoric to roll back onerous regulations, will regulatory overreach be an afterthought on Capitol Hill.

Sam Batkins is the Coordinator for Regulatory Issues at the American Action Forum.