Senate bill would require all federal agencies to weigh costs of new rules

Under current rules, executive branch agencies are required to analyze costs and benefits of major proposed regulations, and the analyses are vetted by the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs OIRA).

But the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the National Labor Relations Board and other independent agencies are not subject to OIRA review.

The new legislation, penned by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), would end the exemption by authorizing the president to bring independent agencies into the same review system that governs other regulators.

“Independent agencies exercise vast power over major sectors of our economy — from telecom, to agriculture, to financial services — but they are exempt from commonsense requirements including cost-benefit analysis of major regulations to ensure they do more good than harm,” Portman said.

The proposed measure is in line with a recommendation of the President’s Jobs Council, the lawmakers noted.

“Congress should require [independent agencies] to conduct cost-benefit analysis for economically significant regulations,” the council concluded in a 2012 report.

However, public interest groups say independent agencies operate outside the executive branch system for good reason.

“Regulations that protect consumers from accidental death or injury, that protect consumers from predatory banks and financial firms, and that protect investors from fraud or manipulation should not be jammed into the same bottleneck that has blocked worker safety regulations and key environmental regulations,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute.

“This will benefit only those corporations that, in their own selfish interest, want to delay or escape sensible rules and safeguards.”