House Panel to Debate REINS Act and Its Awful Consequences

by Matthew Madia, 3/8/2011

Today, a House panel will consider a bill that would create radical and damaging changes to the regulatory process and would undermine safeguards critical to our health, welfare, environment, and economy.

The bill, H.R. 10, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (or as its proponents have cleverly named it, the REINS Act), would require congressional approval of all major rules.

If you are at all familiar with the United States Congress, you probably know that they have a hard time getting much accomplished. H.R. 10 would add to their legislative plate upwards of 100 “resolutions of approval” every year. (In 2008, 2009, and 2010, federal agencies issued 93, 78, and 94 major rules, respectively.)

If either chamber of Congress disapproves a rule, or simply fails to act on a resolution of approval, within 70 legislative days, the rule is considered null and void, and the agency cannot attempt to rewrite the rule until the next Congress convenes. Even if Congress does approve a rule, the REINS process could delay implementation by months and months. Talk about government inefficiency.

Few outside of the House and Senate Republican caucuses support the REINS Act. While the House version has 127 co-sponsors and the Senate version 25, scores of groups representing the interests of millions oppose it. In February, 72 public interest organizations wrote to House Judiciary Committee members urging them to oppose the REINS Act. “H.R. 10 would threaten new safeguards by causing unnecessary delay,” the groups wrote. “H.R. 10 would also give special interests another opportunity to undermine public protections.”

No issue would go unscathed. The REINS Act would jeopardize protections for the environment, consumers, food and drugs, cars and toys, workers (especially those in dangerous industries like mining), civil liberties, the economy, and even national security. It would also threaten public access to health care, student aid, social security, and human needs programs like food stamps.

Today’s hearing before Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law will feature three witnesses, including David Goldston from the Natural Resources Defense Council (one of the 72 groups signing the letter opposing the bill). A webcast should be available when the hearing begins at 4:00 pm.

Update: Read a statement on the hearing from the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards.

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