GOP lays out regulatory reform wish list

GOP lays out regulatory reform wish list

Republicans have plenty of ideas for reforming the regulatory process. 

President Trump has vowed to lighten Washington's regulatory load. Now, GOP lawmakers want to pass legislation to ensure any changes in this administration become permanent.

Those include proposals that would require federal agencies to issue only the "least costly" regulations and a measure to eliminate outdated and duplicative rules.

House Republicans are moving forward with an aggressive package of bills on regulatory reforms.

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But with only a 52-48 edge in the Senate, some of those may not make it through the upper chamber where Democrats have filibuster power.

Some upper chamber Republicans, like Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), believe a more modest set of reforms could win over eight Democrats.

Republicans, though, have ambitious hopes. Here’s a look at the GOP's wish list on regulatory reform.

 

Curbing costly regs

The Regulatory Accountability Act would require federal agencies to issue the "least costly" rules to address problems.

If a cost-benefit analysis shows the regulation is too expensive, the agency would be forced to choose a “reasonable alternative.” The analysis could be challenged in court to “ensure that agencies do not rely on irrational assumptions,” according to a release from Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate GOP reveals different approach on tax reform GOP senators: Moore should step aside if allegations true Senate set for clash with House on tax bill MORE (R-Ohio), who plans to introduce the bill in the upper chamber once Congress returns from the Easter recess.

Supporters of the Regulatory Accountability Act say it would keep federal agencies on a tight leash and prevent the sort of regulatory overreach that Republicans complained about during the Obama administration.

But critics say it would lead to toothless regulations.

The House version of the bill, sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteJuan Williams: The shame of Trump's enablers GOP bill would ban abortions when heartbeat is detected Overnight Regulation: GOP flexes power over consumer agency | Trump lets states expand drone use | Senate panel advances controversial EPA pick | House passes bill to curb 'sue-and-settle' regs MORE (R-Va.), passed in January.

But it's unclear whether Portman will be able to attract enough support from moderate Democrats to overcome a Senate filibuster.

It's one of the GOP's top regulatory priorities and many believe it is more likely to win bipartisan support than other items on their wish list.

"You have the House blistering the Senate with all these bazookas, but the only one that's serious is the Regulatory Accountability Act," said Rena Steinzor, a law professor at the University of Maryland and member of the left-leaning Center for Progressive Reform, who opposes the measure.

 

Easing regs on small businesses

The GOP's Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would require federal agencies to consider the impact their rules have on small businesses. Agencies would conduct a "regulatory flexibility" analysis to determine how many small businesses would be affected by rules.

Those that are determined to have a big impact on small businesses would also be subjected to further periodic review.

Proponents say the bill would help small businesses cut through Washington red tape. But critics say it's intended to “help big companies under the guise of helping small businesses.”

“We need something that is targeted at real small businesses, like mom-and-pop shops,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate at the left-leaning Public Citizen.

The House passed the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act in January. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has hopes some Senate Democrats will sign on to the Senate version, but so far none have.

 

Reviewing existing regs

The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Actwould establish a commission to review existing regulations. Congress would then vote  on whether to repeal outdated and duplicative rules.

President Trump said he plans to cut 75 percent of federal regulations. But the commission's goals are different, aimed at reducing by 15 percent the economic cost of outdated rules.

The House passed the SCRUB Act in January, but it is unlikely to garner enough support from Democrats to pass the Senate. 

 

Making Congress a regulatory gatekeeper

One of the most controversial reform measures from Republicans would require federal agencies to seek congressional approval before issuing major regulations: The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act.

Critics say it would allow Republicans to kill regulations much more easily, even if they just control one branch of Congress.

Currently, Republicans have the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress strike down some regulations on the books. But it's only effective when the same party controls both chambers and the White House.

The House passed the REINS Act in January, but even Republicans admit it's a long shot in the Senate.

 

Stretching out the regulatory process

Another bill, the All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act (ALERT) Act, aims to shed more light on the rulemaking process.

With limited exceptions, federal agencies would be prohibited from issuing new rules until they have been posted online for six months for public review.

Each month, federal agencies would send a report to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), detailing the rules they plan to issue in the coming year. The report would include a summary of each regulation, the estimated costs, and when they expect to issue the rule. OIRA would then post this information online.

Under the ALERT Act, these rules could not take effect until this information has been posted online for six months.

Republicans say it will bring more transparency to the regulatory process, but critics fear it will slow down much-need protections.

The House passed the bill in January, but it faces a challenging path in the Senate.

 

The Early Participation in Regulations Act would add additional steps to the rulemaking process.

Currently, federal agencies issue a proposed rule and review public comments, before finalizing the regulation.

Under the Early Participation in Regulations Act, agencies would be required to also issue what’s known as an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.” 

This step is currently optional, but the bill would require advanced notice at least 90 days prior to the proposed rule.

Republicans say it will give the public more time to comment, but critics argue it will only prolong the rulemaking process.

Lankford has found one Democratic co-sponsor in Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampNorth Dakota rep: Trump wants me to run for Senate No room for amnesty in our government spending bill Trump bank nominee gets rough reception at confirmation hearing MORE (N.D.).