Administration’s regs based on congressional law

After spending some time discussing regulatory issues with your staff, we were disappointed that The Hill chose to frame the debate over federal regulations in a way that feeds a partisan and misleading picture of the regulatory process (“REGULATION NATION: Obama oversees expansion of the regulatory state,” Aug. 19). As they know, federal agencies only enforce laws that Congress passes; they can’t independently “churn out regulations” in order to “solidify power” or “expand the regulatory state.” Federal employees can only wield the authority that Congress has granted them. When the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies develop rules, they’re doing so under authority they’ve been granted by laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act — laws that have overwhelming support from the American people.

The idea that “all the incentives [for federal officials] are to regulate more” is nonsense. Since the 1970s, when many public protections were put in place, the process of rule-making (i.e., the formal steps required to implement a law) has grown increasingly complex and slow  — primarily because opponents of regulation have deliberately tried to slow the process to ward off federal oversight. Passing a new rule is a lengthy and time-consuming process; industry lobbyists and anti-regulatory politicians threaten budget cuts and heap abuse on agencies that try to update rules. The real incentive is to do nothing new.

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As the authors note, the president can set new policies about how to enforce (or not enforce) existing laws. The Bush administration used this authority to refuse to enforce a number of environmental regulations. But the actions the executive branch can take remain firmly constrained by the laws passed by Congress

By framing the argument as “the growth of the regulatory state” and the “expansion of executive power,” it appears that Republican lawmakers have won the “messaging battle over regulations” at The Hill. We hope subsequent coverage will present a more nuanced picture, as the fight for better public protections against emerging health and safety threats on the Hill continues.

From Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government, Washington, D.C.

Say ‘no’ to Syria strikes 

I completely agree with the column that appeared in The Hill on Sept. 4 by Dick Morris, “Say No on Syria.” 

President Obama was right to seek congressional approval for his planned U.S. military force against the Syrian government, especially because the Constitution requires him to do so.

However, U.S. military involvement in this Syrian civil war is neither wise nor justifiable. The United States has no vested national security interest at stake in Syria.  That country hasn’t threatened the United States and currently poses no direct danger to us.  

Additionally, the U.S. has no ally in this two-and-a-half-year conflict.  The Syrian civil war — which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people — is basically a contest between groups aligned with Iran-allied supporters of Hezbollah (Islamic extremists) on the one side, and predominantly al Qaeda-affiliated rebels (including the Muslim Brotherhood) on the other.

The recent chemical attack on 1,400 innocent Syrian citizens, supposedly ordered by Syrian President Bashar Assad, is indeed horrific, but there’s no actual evidence that the Syrian government was behind this terrible deed. It’s all supposition. 

More likely, Obama is trying to pull a “Clintonesque” political stunt meant to distract us from the current domestic upheaval in the U.S., like the fight over defunding “ObamaCare,” by redirecting our focus toward this misguided invasion of Syria.

It is foolhardy, to say the least, and will likely catapult this now confined conflict into a huge international disaster.  

I stand with the vast majority of my fellow Americans in demanding Congress vote a resounding NO to U.S. military action in Syria.

From Stefani Williams, Toquerville, Utah

New regs benefit nation

Two critical elements were missing from The Hill’s Aug. 19 article proclaiming the “dramatic expansion of the regulatory state” (“REGULATION NATION: Obama oversees expansion of the regulatory state”): meaningful data demonstrating an expansion and acknowledgement of why regulations are adopted in the first place.

Assertions from anti-regulation advocates about the page length of the Code of Federal Regulations tell us nothing about the importance of the regulations being issued. The supposedly regulation-happy Obama administration issued fewer rules considered significant and/or substantive last year (848) than the Bush administration did in any of its eight years in office, including 2008, when it issued 1,063. And the Obama administration is moving even more slowly this year. That’s a crude yardstick with which to measure regulatory expansion but not so crude as counting pages.

Moreover, the rules advanced by the Obama administration will raise automobile fuel efficiency, reduce the air pollution that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year, cut the outsized U.S. contribution to climate change, help protect the economy from the banking industry excesses that brought us to recession in 2008, extend health insurance coverage to millions of currently uninsured, rein in insurance industry abuses, and much more.

You won’t hear opponents of regulation acknowledge those life-saving, earth-preserving, economy-protecting benefits of regulation, and for good reason: Once benefits are brought into the picture, a considerable majority of Americans favor reasonable regulation. 

From Sidney Shapiro, member scholar at the Center for Progressive Reform and university distinguished chair in law at the Wake Forest University School of Law, Winston-Salem, NC