By Russell Berman - 06/04/12 09:00 AM EDT
House Republicans are pushing a bill aimed at keeping President Obama from enacting new regulations, but they could end up hamstringing a President Romney as well.
A bill the House plans to vote on this summer would put a moratorium on significant new regulations until the unemployment rate reaches 6 percent or lower. Yet last month, Romney said his policies as president would result in a jobless rate at 6 percent by the end of his first term.
In his 59-point economic plan, Romney pledges to “act swiftly to tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy.” He also writes that his administration will adhere to a regulatory cap that offsets the projected cost of any new rule and expresses support for legislation similar to the REINS Act, which would require congressional approval for any new regulation with an economic impact greater than $100 million.
The House passed the REINS Act in December, but like most of its deregulation agenda, it has stalled in the Senate. The author of the moratorium bill, freshman Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), said in an interview that he also backed the REINS Act but said it was “going nowhere.”
His proposal, titled the Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act, was “more narrow,” he said. He voiced the hope that because the unemployment rate served as a sort of expiration date for the restriction, it could make it more palatable to critics. Yet with the Senate showing little interest in House GOP bills of any kind, there might not be much more hope for Griffin’s bill than the REINS Act.
“I’m not a prognosticator,” the congressman said.
The House Judiciary Committee signed off on the Freeze Act in April.
Griffin said he had not seen Romney’s comments stating his goal of a 6 percent jobless rate by the end of his first term, which came in an interview with Time magazine.
“I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we’d put in place, we’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, and perhaps a little lower,” Romney told the magazine in late May.
The Romney campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this article.
“The Freeze Act would not burden any administration that successfully brought the unemployment rate down to 6 percent,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), said in an email.
“The Freeze Act forces this and future administrations to take high unemployment seriously, and work to lower it, instead of piling new regulations on top of American businesses. [The bill] is narrowly tailored only to stop unnecessary regulations,” Smith said.
Smith noted that the legislation contains exceptions for regulations that “are necessary to protect health and safety, for national security, to enforce criminal laws or to implement trade agreements.”
Griffin said he did not envision a conflict with the GOP standard-bearer over his proposal, and he volunteered that if President Obama were interested in the bill, he would be willing to negotiate the precise unemployment rate that would serve as a trigger.
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) defended Griffin’s measure and dismissed as hypothetical concerns about its impact on a new administration.
“This is a sensible, common-sense piece of legislation that will help create jobs and is just part of the Republican majority’s relentless focus on the economy,” the spokesman, Michael Steel, said.