The House approved legislation Thursday afternoon that would prevent the Obama administration from imposing major new federal regulations until unemployment falls to 6 percent.
The bill would also prevent major new rules from being issued under President Obama between the November election and Inauguration Day — so-called "midnight regulations" — should Obama lose the election.
Members passed the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act, H.R. 4078, in a 245-172 vote in which only 13 Democrats voted with Republicans.
The bill garnered major attention for its typos — one that originally read as "employment" instead of "unemployment" and a second error found Thursday.
"The president himself, while producing more than 106 major rules costing more than $46 billion, has said, 'We may be over-regulated.' His own chief spokesperson, Mr. Sunstein, has said that, in fact, regulations can cost jobs," said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), referring to Cass Sunstein, Obama's regulatory chief.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) noted a recent poll that said 85 percent of small companies that are not hiring cite fears of new government regulations as the reason.
"President Obama has turned America into a regulation nation," Smith said.
The bill also calls for increased regulatory transparency, and calls on the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission to conduct cost-benefit analyses before issuing new rules. But Democrats argued that the bill is too sweeping, and would prevent potentially necessary rules dealing with health, the environment or financial stability.
"This bill will stop us in a number of other areas with regard to derivatives, speculation where we want to put limits on what the nonusers of oil can buy so we can drive up the price," Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said.
"The notion that the American people are crying out for an end to regulation is not congruent with anything I have read or heard about the financial area," he added. "And I am on the Financial Services Committee. I've worked on that."
Several Democrats tried to address this problem with amendments that would exempt some areas from the bill's limitation on new rules, but the House rejected every Democratic amendment offered.
The House accepted a handful of GOP amendments, including one that would increase the effectiveness of the bill in blocking new rules. Under the bill as presented on the floor, rules that are found to cost the economy $100 million or more would be prevented until unemployment falls.
But Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) proposed language lowering that threshold to $50 million, a change the House agreed to in a 240-178 vote.
During the week, much of the debate on the bill focused on a typographical error in the legislation that said major new rules would be prevented until the "employment" rate falls to 6 percent, rather than the "unemployment" rate. Democrats caught the error and refused to grant unanimous consent to fix it on the floor, to protest the Republican decision not to make more amendments in order.
That forced the Rules Committee to approve a rule that, once passed, would fix the error. But on Thursday morning, another typo was found in the rule that further complicated the debate.
Republicans asked for unanimous consent to fix this second error. Democrats indicated they would allow that fix to happen, but said the typos were evidence that Republicans were rushing the bill to the floor too quickly.
"I do think this is more than simply a double error," Frank said. "It's a matter of haste." Both errors were eventually fixed by voice vote.
Democrats also complained about the time being wasted fixing typos related to legislation that the Senate will not consider at all, and one that the Obama administration has threatened to veto. Some Democrats called for work on a farm bill, and questioned why Republicans have not called up a bill to extend the Bush-era tax levels for the middle class, similar to a bill the Senate approved Wednesday.
"We have the Bush tax cuts, which we all agree that we should keep in place for the middle class; but because we don't agree to extend them for the Koch brothers and the other crony capitalists that this party represents, they're not willing to get that done," Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said.
House Republicans will take up a bill extending all Bush-era tax levels for another year.
— This story was corrected on Friday. The bill would not freeze new regulations for two years, or until the unemployment rate falls to 6 percent; the only condition for new regulations would be the reduced unemployment rate. An earlier version of the bill included the "two years" language.