New life for ‘zombie’ regs bills in Congress

Congressional Democrats and public interest groups are decrying the GOP re-introduction of "zombie" anti-regulatory legislation, taking aim at a slate of bills that have died in previous sessions of Congress only to be resurrected.
 
Measures like the Regulatory Accountability Act, Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act and the Unfunded Mandates Information Transparency Act have been reintroduced in the Senate and the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act is again pending before both chambers.
 
The bills, designed to tamp down on agency authority and give lawmakers more sway over the rule-making process, critics say, have little chance of passage while President Obama is still in the White House.
 
Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldOn The Money: Harley-Davidson decision raises trade tensions with Trump | Senate panel to take up tariff legislation | CBO projects grim budget outlook under Trump | White House objects to measure on reinstating ZTE ban Dem lawmakers seek distance from Waters call for confrontation 'Diamond & Silk' offer chance for bipartisan push back on social media censorship MORE (D-N.C.) said it’s irrational to keeping pushing the same policy over and over again.
 
 “Just like the repeal votes on Obama care,” he said. “I understand it once or twice, but to go down that road 50 times is incomprehensible to me.”
 
“I don’t know how much it costs per hour to run the House of Representatives,” he continued, “but it’s in the thousands of dollars and we need to use this time constructively.”
 
But this time around, Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, have a chance of landing some of the measures on Obama's desk, forcing a veto that could be used to highlight their fight against federal red tape and paint the president as an obstructionist.
 
Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOn The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment Hatch threatens legislative action to rein in Trump tariffs GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki MORE (R-Utah) said forcing Obama to use his veto power shows his unwillingness to give the people what they want.
 
“It does show the difference between a really solid, aggressive, forward moving president and somebody who just doesn’t seem to care,” he said. “Frankly, I don’t think you can look at this president and say he’s running the country in the right way.”
 
Hatch and other GOP members like Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeWisconsin GOP Senate candidate rips his own parents for donations to Dems GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-Utah) said regulatory reform is long overdue.
 
“We’ve got $2 trillion in annual regulatory compliance costs and we’ve got a system that has resulted in an excessive amount of lawmaking through executive branch agencies,” Lee said. “We need that. I refuse to except the premise that those are zombie bills.”  
 
Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungBipartisan group introduces retirement savings legislation in Senate GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border The Hill's Morning Report — Trump: `A very great moment in the history of the world’ MORE (R-Ind.), the lead sponsor on the REINS Act, said he’s not going to the let the president ‘s veto threat stop him from pushing for legislation that improves public policy.
 
“I will not allow President Obama to define the agenda of my office,” he said. “That’s not what my constituents sent me to Congress to do.”
 
Besides, presidents change.

“I don’t think any one president can create zombies,” Hatch said. “They can refuse to do things and that’s their right, but over time good bills will find their way to the surface.”
 
Republicans have the numbers to approve legislation through both chambers without Democratic support. To overcome the threat of a filibuster in the Senate — a step needed to send any of the bills to the president, would require a handful of Democratic backers.

Absent that support, they could alternatively employ the Congressional Review Act, which empowers both chambers to pass, by a simple majority a “motion of disapproval” to quash regulations.

Republicans have signaled to use the CRA to target environmental rules and labor regulations.

The process, however, requires the president’s signature. And though it is highly unlikely that Obama would sign off on any such legislation, pro-regulation advocates say they are still concerned.
 
Once you’ve changed the regulatory process, it’s very hard to undo and get the public to push for a repeal, said Celia Viggo Wexler, senior Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy.
 
“The public isn’t going to be banging on your door saying you’ve got to repeal the Regulatory Accountability Act,” she said.
 
“It’s hard to have the hashtag ‘Repeal the RAA,’ “ she said. “Hashtag ‘Raise the Minimum Wage,’ now that’s tangible. It’s money in peoples’ pockets. They get it.”