GOP lawmaker targets ‘sue and settle’ regulations

Critics say the process, known as “sue-and-settle” circumvents public input of new rules. It also “surprises” the regulated industries, which then have a shortened timeline to comply.

“Accelerated timeframes for proposal and promulgation allow agencies to short-circuit review of new regulations by the [Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs] OIRA,” the White House agency that reviews rules before they’re issued, Collins’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

The Georgia freshman says this primarily happens with environmental groups and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and said the incentive for the sue-and-settle process “is particularly strong when the plaintiff and the agency agree on what the content of the regulation should be.”

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Collins said he didn’t want to imply that the agencies and the interest groups were colluding, however.

In the previous Congress, both the House and Senate versions of the bill did not make it to a floor vote.

Collins said that the legislation has suffered an education problem: Democrats don’t know how it could benefit them. He also said he has already had conversations with colleagues across the aisle about the bill, adding, “We’ll see how that goes.”

“In the end, they can propose their politics” and not sign on to the bill, he said. “But they're at least going to have an understanding. They're going to know that I'm not out there just drumming something that was designed to punish. This is a good bill for them.”

So far, the bill has 24 original co-sponsors, all of whom are Republican.

Collins, a former attorney, says the bill would not curb citizens’ access to the judicial system.

“We never wanted to close off the [access to the courts], but we've been accused of it. All I can say is, read the bill,” he said.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) has sponsored the Senate companion legislation.

“This kind of regulatory litigation also adversely affects the ability of the executive branch to engage in sound and principled decision-making,” Grassley said in a statement. “America’s system of lawmaking and judicial review shouldn’t be distorted or manipulated.”

On Thursday, 54 business groups sent a letter to Congress, pushing them to pass the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, echoing the concerns raised by both Collins and Grassley.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said the sue-and-settle process has been responsible for forcing the EPA’s most controversial and economically significant regulations that have “plagued the business community.”

But the bill urging transparency could impose costs on the federal government.

When the first bill was introduced last March, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report saying it could cost about $7 million between 2013 and 2017: “Primarily because litigation involving consent decrees and settlement agreements would probably take longer under the bill, as agencies would face new requirements to report more information to the public and other additional administrative costs.”