All the talk about regulatory reform and rolling back President Barack Obama’s stifling government oversight is off to a strong start in Congress.
While much of the Beltway was focused on confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald J. Trump’s cabinet, Congress went back to work.
Republicans wasted no time flexing the legislative muscles that come with having a friendly chief executive occupying the White House. GOP leaders are preparing a spate of business-friendly bills for Trump to sign upon taking office next week.
Thursday, the House passed the bipartisan SEC Regulatory Accountability Act by a 243-184 vote. Sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner. R-Mo., the bill would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to review the costs of rules and justify the benefits.
“This common-sense legislation will help drain the swamp that Washington bureaucrats have built over the past eight years,” Wagner said, “while better protecting American families from top-down, one-size-fits-all regulations that cost nearly $15,000 for every household.”
While the SEC is required to conduct cost-benefit analyses of its proposed rules, the new legislation would prohibit it from issuing a rule when it cannot make “a reasoned determination that the benefits of the intended regulation justify the costs of the regulation.”
Existing regulations would have to be reviewed every five years. Outdated or excessively burdensome ones would have to be changed or repealed under the bill, although how that will be determined is unclear.
The bill has no counterpart in the Senate and no further action is scheduled.
REIN-ing In Obama Rules
The lead legislation in the GOP offensive on government regulations is the REINS Act, which stands for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny.
It passed the House last week in a mostly party line vote of 237-187. REINS includes an amendment that covers all regulations adopted by federal agencies within the past 10 years.
The REINS Act, which has a companion Senate legislation, would require any rule costing an industry more than $100 million to be submitted to Congress. If either chamber fails to approve the rule within 70 days, the rule would die.
The $100 million figure basically covers any rule of substance. It would include the Department of Labor fiduciary rule published in April 2016 and slated to begin taking effect on April 10, 2017.
Finally, Congress passed the Midnight Rules Relief Act, which would allow Congress to overturn all regulations finalized by the Obama administration since May.
Congress, which previously passed the Midnight Rules bill in November, voted 238-184 along party lines Jan. 5.
If passed by the Senate and signed by Trump, the legislation would amend the Congressional Review Act to allow lawmakers to bundle together multiple rules and overturn them with a joint resolution of disapproval.
'Get These Rules Right'
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which filed a lawsuit to overturn the fiduciary rule, praised the Republican approach.
“We have to get these rules right. This legislation would increase scrutiny of only the most impactful rules, requiring greater transparency and agency accountability,” said Neil Bradley, senior vice president and chief policy officer for the chamber.
Democrats claim that Republicans are moving too fast and without enough consideration for the specific rules in question.
The traditional governing relationship has regulations resulting from acts of Congress. Lawmakers approve laws such as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, but leave it to government agencies to produce the regulations implementing the legislation.
Critics say the Republican bills would politicize the process by shifting regulatory power from executive branch agencies bound by scientific and legal standards to Congress.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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