Vote Explanation for H.R. 5 — Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017

H.R. 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act, is another Republican attempt to hobble government under the guise of regulatory reform. The bill would severely undermine the ability of our federal agencies to implement regulations on a variety of issues from consumer protection to climate change and health care. I believe we need to cut government red tape and make sure regulations are smart, beneficial, and up-to-date, but this legislation adds red tape to the regulatory process.

H.R. 5 modifies the federal rulemaking process by requiring all federal agencies to consider more than 70 new criteria when issuing rules or regulations. The bill includes a directive for agencies to hold hearings and issue advance notices of proposed rulemaking for costly regulations, in addition to allowing for judicial review of interim rules.

Additionally, H.R. 5 prohibits courts from considering or deferring to agencies’ interpretations of laws or regulations when hearing challenges to regulations. Currently, when a federal court reviews whether an agency decision is consistent with the law, the court must defer to the agency when Congressional intent is not clear and the agency’s interpretation is reasonable. This principle, known as the Chevron Doctrine, has been settled law for over thirty years. It gives agency decision makers the necessary leeway to interpret statutes when their meaning is not clear. By revising this policy, H.R. 5 results in the opinions of federal judges, not agency subject matter experts, determining the validity of technical policy determinations.

While I support efforts to ensure that regulations are efficient and cost-effective, this legislation goes too far by adding significant obstacles to our federal rulemaking process that could potentially prevent agencies from carrying out important oversight. For this reason, I voted against passage of the bill.