Watchdogs, business groups clash on deregulation vote

Business groups are squaring off against a coalition of public interest watchdogs, labor unions and environmental organizations in a fight over legislation that would saddle federal regulators with a host of new restrictions.

The package of four bills is likely to cruise through the GOP controlled House, where Republicans have made their attack on “job killing” Obama administration regulations a top election year priority.

However, the legislation is unlikely to pass the Senate, where Democrats enjoy the majority. Even if it did, the White House signaled late Tuesday that President Obama would veto the package.

Still, a coalition of dozens of trade groups issued a letter Tuesday to House members, them to support the package of four GOP-sponsored bills, designed to put new requirements on agencies charged with drafting new rules.

“Sound regulation is not possible unless the full regulatory process is open and meaningful public participation is allowed by agencies,” according to groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The bills are combined under a single title: the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act. The legislation would force agencies to conduct additional analyses before enacting regulations, and is touted by proponents as providing additional transparency to the rule-making process.

“Taken together, these reforms would allow Congress and the public to reassert control over a federal regulatory bureaucracy that is opaque, unaccountable, and often unfair,” the groups charge.

However critics of the bill lashed back, calling the legislation in their own letter to House members, a blatant attempt to block regulations, undermining vital public safeguards at the behest of big business.

Taken together, the bills would impose dozens of new analytical requirements and strip the public of its power to press for stronger regulations, according to a coalition of public interest organizations, labor unions and green groups.

“They will not create one new job, launch one entrepreneur or open a single new manufacturing plant,” the groups wrote.  “Instead they will weaken future crucial protections for American families and workers, the environment, and our financial stability; and enlarge the power of wealthy corporations to block any regulation that might affect their bottom line.”

The groups argue that, if enacted, the legislation would add months of delays to regulations that already take agencies years to put in place.

“We need stronger public protections, not a weaker system of safeguards,” the groups wrote. “We need better enforcement of sensible rules and public safeguards, not more needless delays.”