Congress Reins In Executive Branch, Rolls Back Regulations

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Juliegrace Brufke Capitol Hill Reporter
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House Republicans vowed to restore the power of the legislative branch when they rolled out their “A Better Way” agenda last year, and they delivered.

Using a two-step approach, GOP lawmakers in the lower chamber first passed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which requires any major regulatory change with an economic impact of more than $100 million to be approved by Congress.

Top Republicans defending the measure argue the balance of power shifted during the Obama administration, with an increasing number of major policy changes decided behind closed doors by bureaucrats, instead of Congress. While there may be a Republican in the White House, the change would limit the executive branch’s policy-making power.

House leadership has made it clear: rolling back Obama-era regulations is a top priority for the 115th Congress. Passing the Midnight Rules Relief Act allowed Congress to eliminate a large batch of regulations, which American Action Forum estimates cost a whopping $164 billion in 2016 alone.

The House also passed the Regulatory Accountability Act in January, requiring agencies to select the least costly option available for the task they are trying to accomplish while preventing large rules from being implemented if they are being challenged in court.

“More than anything, regulatory reform is about empowering the people. Ultimately, we know we can’t fix Washington until we make the bureaucracy accountable to the people and get rid of bad regulations,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who spearheaded the House’s efforts on regulatory reform, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “So for the entire last month, the House has actually been passing bills to regain control of the bureaucracy and overturn of the worst of the Obama Administration’s last-minute regulations. These are the first steps not only to restoring our Constitution, but to making all of Washington work for the people again.”

In addition to changing how bureaucrats can make policy, Republicans are also using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which hadn’t successfully been used since 2001, to roll back a number of recently introduced regulations.

The House used the tool to pass a measure overturning the Stream Buffer Rule, which would have cut off access to the majority of the nation’s coal reserves; the Social Security Administration NICS rule, which critics argue would have prevented disabled Americans from purchasing fire arms; the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) venting and flaring rule, which placed a stricter cap on methane emissions, and a federal contract blacklisting rule.

Congress is expected to use the CRA to overturn three more rules Tuesday — a Department of the Interior regulation pertaining to BLM’s resource management planning restrictions, and two education rules relating to teacher preparation and teacher accountability.

“Everyday we are focused here on delivering results for the American people. That is the trust that has been given to us by the people we represent,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said a press conference Tuesday morning. “That is why we are tackling these excessive regulations, because it means job creation, it means opportunity, it means more growth and innovation across our economy — that is why you are seeing us take our precious time to focus on rolling back excessive regulations that are killing jobs in America.”

North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx argued the education rules are having the opposite effect on what they are intended to do.

“Unfortunately the Obama administration passed many rules which really impede what the people at the local level are trying to do with providing an excellent education,” Foxx told reporters, adding she believes they are Washington top-down policies. “It’s going to require the states to spend millions on new a new ratings system and take money away from programs.”

Republicans said they are looking to put forward a more “appropriate” and effective rule to ensure Americans have access to the best education possible.

Democrats blasted the move, alleging they are attempting to remove necessary safeguards put in place by the last administration.

“They will diminish protections, I think, that were made available to Americans, and in one instance make it more difficult for the government to act in an efficient manner,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters.

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