John Boehner Discovers Regulation, Complains to President

For someone who’s so concerned about federal regulation, John Boehner doesn’t seem to know very much about it.

In the latest issue of OMB Watch’s biweekly e-newsletter The Watcher, we have a story about public support for regulation juxtaposed against the inside-the-beltway push back against it. Business representatives and Republicans in Congress are leading the charge, maligning regulation and linking it to economic distress.

Missing from the article is one recent factoid. On August 16, the Minority Leader wrote a letter to President Obama harassing him about the number of economically significant regulations – those expected to have an annual impact on the economy, in either costs or benefits, of at least $100 million – the administration has on its agenda. The letter comes on the heels of Boehner’s endorsement of a one-year freeze on new regulation – a ludicrous and unworkable idea.

“It has recently come to our attention that the Administration’s published regulatory agenda includes a total of 191 planned rulemakings, each with an estimated annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more,” Boehner wrote.

“It has recently come to our attention” is an interesting phrase. Boehner is referring to the most recent edition of the semiannual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. (More info here.) That edition was released April 26 – almost four months ago. Seems like House Republicans (presumably the “our” in the letter) are a little slow on the uptake. I guess, “It has recently come to our attention,” sounds a lot more professional than, “We just discovered that you post online a list of planned regulations and are anxious to use it against you.”

More importantly, the phrase “each with an estimated annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more,” is just flat out incorrect. There are indeed 191 economically significant rules in the latest Unified Agenda, but many of those rules have been deemed significant for their extraordinary benefits to the economy and society at large.

Consider for example the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned clean air transport rule which would limit interstate emissions in order to benefit downwind states. EPA estimates the rule “would yield more than $120 billion in annual health benefits in 2014.”

How does one regulation create such a positive impact? By “avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms.”

I can only presume that Boehner and his Republican colleagues either did not bother to consider this evidence or that they chose to ignore it. As always, ignorance breeds fear.

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