House panel seeks to SCRUB onerous regs

GOP-backed legislation establishing a federal commission to ferret out overly burdensome regulations cruised through a key House panel Wednesday over the objections of Democrats who decried the bill as an attack on public health and safety.

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The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome or SCRUB Act advanced to the House floor following a 17-10 vote in the Judiciary Committee.

Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said the accumulation of federal rules with no permanent mechanism for their removal requires attention from a body outside of the rule-writing agencies.

“Regulators have little incentive to shine a spotlight on their errors,” Goodlatte said. “The sheer volume of the code of regulations presents a daunting task for any president or Congress to address.”

The bill calls for the creation of a new Retrospective Regulatory Review Commission, which would be tasked with identifying federal rules that should be repealed or amended to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.

The nine-member commission would be bipartisan, with the Senate confirming nominees put forward by the president and congressional leadership.

Democrats on the panel argued that the bill — aimed at cutting red tape and redundancy — would create a vast new bureaucracy in the form of a commission charged with doing work already assigned to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Even more troubling, Democrats said, is a provision of the legislation requiring agencies to refrain from enacting new regulations until they have removed from their books rules carrying equal costs.

Before the vote, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) dismissed the bill as “another shortsighted anti-regulatory measure that has no hope of becoming law.” 

Still, public interest groups favoring tougher health and safety protections were sufficiently worried about the effort to make their opposition known.

In the event of the bill’s passage, “American taxpayers are on the hook for a commission that doesn’t make us any safer, won’t prevent the next major environmental disaster or tainted food outbreak, and doesn’t create any jobs unless you count the Commission itself,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen.

The bill is the latest in a series of GOP bills designed to tamp down on regulations that have been offered up in the current Congress.

Like most, the SCRUB Act has picked up support from business groups who say they are saddled with ever more painful regulatory compliance costs.

In a letter sent to the committee in advance on Wednesday’s hearing, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU) lamented the loss of hundreds of credit unions in recent years, as regulators adopted new rules to stave off a repeat of the Great Recession.

“All community based financial services institutions, including credit unions, are struggling under an ever-increasing regulatory burden,” wrote Brad Thaler, the group’s vice president of legislative affairs. “Credit unions didn’t cause the financial crisis and shouldn’t be caught in the crosshairs of regulations aimed at those entities that did.”