House votes to give Congress power over costly regulations

Taking direct aim at executive branch power, the House on Friday approved legislation requiring Congress to sign off on the most costly federal regulations.

The Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act passed 232-183 in a vote that went largely along party lines, hours before the House was to adjourn for its August recess.

Under the bill, both chambers of Congress would have to sign off on any federal rules that carry an annual price tag of $100 million.

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The legislation, designed to create a new hurdle that regulations would have to clear before taking effect, reflects the Republican view that rule-making at federal agencies has run amok. The result, they charge, is a torrent of new regulations that have saddled businesses with unnecessary red tape and compliance costs. 

“Throughout the president’s administration, a flood of major new regulations have been burying Americans’ job creators and households at record levels,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said moments before the vote.

Prior to the final vote, the chamber adopted a series of GOP amendments designed to broaden the bill’s reach, including one from Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) that would require Congress to approve any regulatory proposal to tax carbon emissions.


Similar language requiring congressional sign-off on healthcare-related rules, offered by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), was also approved.

Democrats and pro-regulation groups argued that the bill is an attack on the government’s authority to enact rules that protect the safety, health and financial well-being of the American people.

In particular, critics point to a provision of the legislation that requires both chambers of Congress to approve major rules within 70 days after they are issued. The language, they say, would doom even the most important regulations.

“This bill would undermine agencies' ability to protect the public interest,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said during debate on the legislation. “This deregulatory train wreck threatens to send us back to the days before the Wall Street collapse, a financial catastrophe that could have been avoided by responsible policies."

The REINS Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), is the latest incarnation of legislation that has been introduced in each of the last three Congresses. It faces a difficult road forward in the Senate, where Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced a companion bill.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, were it to pass Congress.

Still, business groups were watching closely. The Chamber of Commerce put lawmakers on notice that it was considering including the vote on an annual scorecard ranking Congressional members on their support for businesses.

The legislation was among a series of bills taken up this week as part of House Republicans’ “Stop Government Abuse” week, an initiative they intend to tout during the five-week recess.