Imagine for a moment that you're in the last few weeks of your current job. Your final goal is to complete an important, long-term project that you've been working on for several years. Finishing this project will be a major milestone and will benefit people both inside and outside your organization. Suddenly, your employer makes a new policy: people aren't allowed to complete projects during their last few weeks with the organization. You'd probably be confused, even furious, and rightfully so, because all of your hard work would have been for nothing. A policy like that just wouldn't make sense, yet it's similar to what the House wants to do to those who have been working to develop and improve our nation's public protections.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved two bills designed to block new standards and safeguards. The first, the Midnight Rule Relief Act, would block agencies from publishing new rules between Election Day and Inauguration Day. This would essentially leave a president powerless to adopt public protections for the last two months of his or her administration.
We must remember that regulations don't just appear out of thin air: they are the way that agencies implement the laws Congress has passed to provide clean air, clean water, food safety, worker safety, and a host of other important safeguards. Agencies have to go through more than 110 procedural and analytical steps to develop a rule, so it typically takes years between the time Congress passes a law and an agency is able to finalize a standard. Rules that have been in the pipeline for months or years shouldn't be blocked simply because their final publication date happens to fall after an election.
The Oversight Committee also approved the so-called Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act. This isn't the first time we've seen this bill come up in a House committee, and it hasn't gotten any better since it was approved by the Judiciary Committee
last month. The bill would put a block all new "significant regulatory actions" until the national unemployment level falls below six percent. This idea makes no sense: it is premised on wrongheaded assumptions – despite all available evidence
that shows that, if anything, regulations help create jobs. Small business owners agree: survey
has shown that regulations aren't holding back job growth; the economy is.
It's worth remembering how the economy ended up in a bad state: as the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission wrote, "Widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision proved devastating to the stability of the nation's financial markets." Given that, it's hard to figure out how anyone could think blocking new financial protections or other safeguards across the economy could fix things.
Maybe the best way to understand the intent of these bills is a provision buried deep within each one of them: "significant regulatory actions" are blocked, but deregulatory actions are allowed to proceed. These bills are about rolling back and undercutting the public protections that keep Americans safe at home, work, and play. Put simply, that's a terrible idea – it's too bad the House can't pass a moratorium on those.