Senate panel advances reg reform bills

Senate panel advances reg reform bills

A Senate panel advanced a half dozen regulatory reform bills Wednesday, including the Midnight Rules Relief Act.

The Midnight Rules Relief Act sponsored by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Sen. Cassidy plans to bring down Medicaid Senate committee schedules hearing on health care block grants MORE (R-Wis.) would make it easier for lawmakers to strike down multiple regulations at the same time.

The panel's action comes as Republicans turn their sights to longer-lasting regulatory reforms, having mostly finished using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to target specific Obama-era rules.

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Under the CRA, Republican lawmakers have overturned 14 Obama  regulations since President Trump entered the White House.

The act allows lawmakers to bypass Senate rules and overturn regulations with a simple majority. However, Congress must vote on each rule individually.

“This kind of retrospective work is necessary, but it is only a small portion of the more than 2,500 new rules President Obama’s administration issued in its last six months, or the more than 4,000 during his final year,” Johnson said.

The Midnight Rules Relief Act would save Congress time, by allowing lawmakers to strike down multiple regulations in one vote, Johnson explained.

While Republicans have seen the Congressional Review Act as a valuable tool to strike regulations, Democrats are hoping to abolish the CRA, fearing it is being used to eliminate environmental, health, and safety protections.

Other regulatory reform bills are receiving support from both sides of the aisle in Washington.

The bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act is sponsored by Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWeek ahead in tech: Debate over online sex trafficking bill heats up 'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision MORE (R-Ohio) and Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampJustice Dept investigating Equifax stock sales: report Dem senator: Trump 'very serious' about infrastructure Trump steps up courtship of Dems MORE (D-N.D.), and requires federal regulators to issue the most “cost-effective” rules.

“Every president since Ronald Reagan — Republicans and Democrats alike — has agreed that regulatory agencies should use a cost-benefit analysis for every regulation before they make it the law of the land,” Portman said. “It’s a common sense idea, it’s bipartisan, but it has never been codified in law.”

Under the Regulatory Accountability Act, agencies must also publish more information about the scientific data that shapes their regulations.

The bill would also open up major rules to 10-year reviews that ensure they remain necessary and effective.

The Early Participation in Regulations Act sponsored by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) would require federal regulators to issue an advance notice before proposing major rules.

It was the only other bill to receive bipartisan support, with Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Senators blast internet subsidy program It is time to make domestic terrorism a federal crime MORE (D-Mo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Heitkamp crossing the aisle.

Proponents believe this additional step will allow for more feedback that could improve regulations as they are crafted. But critics warn it could slow down the rulemaking process.

“It is in all of our interests to get the regulation right the first time, rather than to fix it later,” said Portman, who added that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act sponsored by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Lawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program MORE (R-Ky.), though, has proven to be one of the most divisive regulatory reform bills.

The REINS Act would essentially give Congress more power to reject regulations. Federal agencies would be required to seek approval before issuing major rules.

The bill passed the committee on a party line vote, but is unlikely to muster enough support from Democrats to make it through the Senate.

Lankford’s Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act also passed with a partyline vote.

The Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act sponsored by Lankford requires federal regulators to publish “plain-language summaries” of their rules online. This bill passed by voice vote.