Staying on course with last week’s theme of reforming the regulatory process….
I wanted to let you know the House voted yesterday on H.R. 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017. I voted for the bill, and it passed 238 to 183. This bill, along with the REINS Act and Midnight Rules Act passed last week, would help get our government closer to the three balanced and separate branches of government envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Allow me to explain a few of the main things this bill does to try to regain the balance they intended.
First, the bill would require agencies set forth the least costly alternative to achieve the same objectives of a proposed rule. For an agency to choose higher cost alternatives, the agency must show Congress how the more expensive option would better benefit public safety, health, and welfare. This section of the bill is important because the cost of complying with current federal regulations is already estimated at $1.86 trillion annually — a silent tax of about $15,000 for every American household every year.
Second, the bill would stop federal courts from giving too much power to agencies when it comes to interpreting laws created by Congress. Over the past few decades, courts have started a doctrine where they simply defer to agencies when there is a question as to the exact requirements of a law, even if Congress itself disagrees. This allows executive agencies to usurp the power of the judiciary and legislature. This portion of the bill would require federal courts to do their job and interpret the law without deferring to agencies.
Third, the bill would require federal agencies to consider the potential economic impact that proposed regulations would have on small businesses. Far too often, bureaucrats in the “Washington bubble” don’t understand the burden these rules can impose on small businesses — the money, time, and manpower it takes to comply with these regulations. There are over 28 million small businesses in the United States, and they collectively provide jobs for over 55 percent of the American workforce. Requiring agencies to stop and think about the economic impact these rules have on small businesses will hopefully make federal departments more aware of the economic consequences of their presumably well-intended actions.
While most of this bill does a fine job scaling back executive overreach and the burdens imposed by agency regulations, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a perfect bill, and this piece of legislation is no exception. One part of the bill would delay any regulation with a potential cost of $1 billion until any lawsuit against it is over. On its face, this seems like a great idea. High cost regulations should receive greater scrutiny. That was the whole basis for the REINS Act I cosponsored and voted in favor of last week. But, I think the way in which this portion of the bill provides that scrutiny is flawed. Rather than giving Congress the opportunity to take a second look at high cost regulations, it gives this power to plaintiffs’ attorneys. I feel fairly confident that is not what the Founding Fathers intended, and this aspect could pose huge problems if Trump tries to reform our immigration system. I voted against this specific proposal when it came up as its own bill in the 114th Congress, and I explained that vote in greater length back in September.
In the whole, I do think this bill will help slow the growing powers of the executive branch and help restore the balance of powers among the three branches of the federal government intended by the Framers of the Constitution. Accordingly, I voted yes.