Panel to cut red tape gains Dem support

Legislation unveiled Tuesday would establish a temporary federal commission aimed at pruning the government’s increasingly dense thicket of federal regulations.

Unlike a flurry of regulatory reform bills that have cruised through the GOP-dominated House in recent months, only to stall in the Senate, this plan has a measure of Democratic support.

The Regulatory Improvement Act, introduced by Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) is based on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. BRAC reviewed and recommended military facilities for closure and is seen by some as a successful model for bipartisan cooperation.

Companion legislation sponsored by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) was introduced in the Senate.

Under the plan, a nine-member commission set up by both parties and the president would identify federal regulations that could be streamlined, consolidated or repealed.

The commission would submit the proposed changes to Congress, which would take an up-or-down vote on the entire package. If approved and signed, the regulatory cutbacks would carry the full force of law.

The commission would target “out of date and zombie regulations” — those more than 10 years old that have never been updated, Murphy said.

“At a time when foreign competition is fierce, America’s ability to create a nimble regulatory environment that can adapt to changing needs of businesses, workers and consumers will determine whether we will remain a leader on the global stage," he added.

Thus far, the push has attracted support from two dozen members of the House and Senate, including 10 Democrats. The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) is also pressing the idea.

Officials from the group noted that every president from Jimmy Carter to President Obama has directed his administration to root out overly burdensome rules, though they said none has made sufficient progress toward addressing the accumulation of new rules, continuously layered upon the old ones.

“It’s not because we hate regulations,” PPI President Will Marshall said. “It’s because we love economic growth and innovation.”

Still, public interest groups warn that the result of the push would be a stripping away of regulations that protect American health and safety.

“This bill sets up a process with a pre-determined outcome of eliminating public protections," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. "What we need is an oversight commission empowered to impose law and order on corporate malefactors — to help prevent the next contaminated food outbreak, chemical spill or financial crash."

Even backers of the plan acknowledge there is skepticism over proposals to fight bureaucracy through the creation of a new federal commission. But the plan’s proponents note that the commission would come with a preset expiration date.

If successful, Congress could authorize additional rounds of regulatory review and reductions.

The lawmakers said the proposal would empower a Congress that has largely shut itself out of the nation’s most pressing policy decisions.

“Congressional gridlock is a huge open invitation to the regulators to over-regulate,” said Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.).