House passes regulatory reform bills
© Greg Nash

The House on Thursday approved Republican-backed regulatory reform bills to curb what they view as costly regulations.

The first bill, titled the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act, passed 245-174. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), would establish a bipartisan commission to review existing federal regulations and identify rules that should be repealed. 

Lawmakers say the commission’s goal would be reduce cumulative costs from regulations by 15 percent and prioritize rules that have been in effect for more than 15 years.

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“What we are asking for is to simply have a bipartisan group of people — bipartisan — look at regulations that may be outdated and scrub them. I think that is a reasonable expectation. That is not asking too much,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzDem demands documents from TSA after scathing security report Chaffetz replacement sworn in as House member Democrats expand House map after election victories MORE (R-Utah).

Critics argue that creating a new commission could cost taxpayers as much as $30 million — the amount of funding authorized by the legislation — and replicate what agencies and Congress are already doing.

"The commission would have virtually unlimited authority to subpoena witnesses or documents," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, said. "This means that it could compel an individual to testify on any subject. A schoolteacher could be compelled to testify about education rules, or a senior citizen could be compelled to testify about Medicare or Social Security rules."

Another measure, titled the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, also sailed through the House on a 244-173 vote. The bill is intended to limit special interest groups’ ability to push federal agencies to adopt rules through litigation by prohibiting the same-day filing of complaints, pre-negotiated consent decrees and settlement agreements in cases seeking to compel agency action.

"Ensuring that folks aren’t steamrolled by new regulations should be a no-brainer. Transparency shouldn’t be controversial," said Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas).

The White House said this week that the president would veto both bills because they would limit authority federal agencies have to issue rules.

The Small Business Entrepreneurship Council praised the House this week for for kicking off 2016 by taking action on legislation, saying it will reduce regulatory burdens for small businesses and reform the “sue and settle” tactic used by some interest groups. 

“Both of these bills, if enacted, will improve and provide a needed check to the regulatory process, which means entrepreneurs and small businesses will enjoy a better business environment,” the council’s president and CEO, Karen Kerrigan, said in a statement.