Issa after regulatory burdens as Dems push back

Leaders of several large business lobbies, as well as the heads of some small businesses, were invited to testify as to how government regulations make their professional lives more difficult. They complained about regulations they said are not based on solid evidence that fail to account for adverse impacts they can have on businesses.

The hearing marked the latest step in Issa's campaign against regulations that he blames for limiting job growth in the private sector. In January, Issa invited the private sector to tell him which regulations were impeding their ability to hire more workers and help drive the economic recovery. On Monday, the oversight committee dropped more than 1,600 pages it received from private businesses, identifying regulations they said were getting in the way of their work.

Issa's panel offered a digested version of those complaints on Thursday in a report. The 70-page document details which rules private industry had identified as problematic, categorizing identified rules by the agency issuing them and the organization lamenting their existence.

And it was clear from Thursday's hearing that Issa was not done with his outreach.

Two large signs were posted behind his seat at the hearing. One asked, "How do regulations block private sector job growth?" The other said, "We're listening." Both listed the website Issa created that allows businesses to fill out a form identifying what government rules they find problematic.

Witnesses detailed several run-ins they have had with government regulators, and the ways that rules were punishing businesses unfairly.

Harry Alford, chief executive officer of the Black Chamber of Commerce, described the administration's moratorium on deepwater oil drilling as punishing the entire oil industry for the mistakes of one bad actor. That ban was put in place in the wake of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"BP is the outlier, not the U.S. oil industry," he said. "We need to remove the oil embargo. We can put an embargo on BP, they were the ones that were doing it."

Jay Timmons, the chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers, called for a focus on balance from regulators.

"We're not disputing that regulations can be beneficial," he said. Rather, he said he wanted to make sure regulations make sense, are balanced, and that federal agencies do not overreach in their rulemaking.

However, committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said Issa's efforts were coming up short, as it was focused on the costs, but not benefits, of government regulations.

"We cannot do a legitimate cost-benefit analysis by collecting information about the cost alone," he said, adding that the committee should hear from groups that support new regulations as well as those that oppose them.

He went on to accuse some companies, which have enjoyed growing profits in recent years, of engaging in "self-serving advocacy" as opposed to "genuine reform proposals."

"We all support a balanced review of regulations, but this committee won't be effective if its work is incomplete, highlights only costs, and puts corporate benefits above the health, safety and welfare of the American people," he said.

He went on to call for the committee to devote its next hearing to the administration's push for more investment in infrastructure. Republicans have dismissed the president's push for more investment in certain sectors, which he outlined in his State of the Union address, as merely more spending.

But Cummings noted that President Obama's push for infrastructure spending won a rare joint statement of praise from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. Officials from both organizations should be invited to testify on what jobs might be created by such an effort, Cummings said.

The call to rein in regulations that might be burdensome is not strictly the purview of House Republicans.

In January, Obama announced he was backing an executive order requiring agencies to sniff out outdated and ineffective regulations, saying such rules may have a "chilling effect" on job growth.

Timmons told the committee that the president's efforts on that front were appreciated, but the necessary next step is to withdraw or tweak any rules that are found to be problematic.