Capstone regs bill draws veto threat

The White House on Thursday issued the latest in a series of veto threats against legislation designed to check a regulatory system that Republicans say has run amok.

The House GOP plans to cap off its “stop government abuse week” (also dubbed “regs week”) Friday by passing a bill allowing courts to block federal regulations that are not developed in a transparent way that includes public input.



The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, or UMITA, expands upon the 1995 Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), which required the government to more closely weigh the costs and impacts of federal rule making.

The measure, penned by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), also includes language that would let people seek a court opinion on whether federal agencies follow that requirement.

Additional judicial review and other changes called for in the bill would only hamstring regulators, according to a formal policy statement issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The bill “would introduce needless uncertainty into agency decision-making and undermine the ability of agencies to provide critical public health and safety protections,” the OMB said, adding that it “strongly opposes” the bill.

Foxx has said the legislation is needed to make sure agencies only issue new rules after carefully weighing their costs against their intended benefits. Congress needs to codify the various executive branch improvements to UMRA that have been made since the unfunded mandates statute was enacted, and to ensure all federal agencies are covered, she argues. 



"Independent regulatory agencies have become far more prevalent in the intervening years, so it's very important to make sure they're bound by the same transparency requirements as other regulatory bodies," she said.



The bill also allows leaders of congressional committees to request studies on the cost of specific regulations, and requires agencies to impose the least costly regulatory alternative available.

The OMB said the president’s advisers would urge him to veto the bill if it is approved in Congress.

The White House has issued similar veto threats for other bills that seek to tamp down on the executive branch’s regulatory authority.

Such was the case ahead of a Thursday vote on a package of bills meant to force federal agencies to be more transparent about pending regulations, and make them choose regulatory alternatives that impose the smallest cost possible on companies.

The House approved the legislation by a tally of 236 to 179.