Meanwhile, in reality …. Congress works on legislation to inhibit federal safety standards

While President Trump has kept the public busy with his latest theories about President Obama’s wire-taps, the “deep state” and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings, the Republican Congress has been quietly pushing forward a legislative agenda that will have an all too real impact on the public. The President’s tweets are dangerously distracting us from a flurry of new laws passed by Congress to inhibit federal safety standards for everything from hamburgers to helicopters.

This week a Senate committee will consider several bills under the auspices of “regulatory reform.” Who cares about regulation? Well, the next time droves of people are sent to the hospital because of bacteria-laden lettuce, or there are engine problems on the Airbus you’re flying, or you’re victimized by a creative credit card scam, you will.

{mosads}The House has already passed a slew of these bills and the Senate is now quietly taking them up. One bill would enable Congress overturn regulations en masse, a top priority for the Koch Brother’s network, thus allowing Congress to do away with multiple protections without public scrutiny. Already on the chopping block are environmental protections, financial reforms limiting Wall Street excess, and sick leave for workers at federal contractors, among others. Another bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act would impose new hurdles to regulations meant to protect public health, like the Clean Air Act, requiring regulators to prioritize cost over human health.

That is just the start. Another proposal on the agenda is the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017.” Dubbed the “REINS Act,” this legislation would require both the House and Senate to pass resolutions affirming any major regulation in order for it to take effect—effectively giving a pocket veto to each branch of Congress. That might sound good in theory, but I should remind you that one of those branches is the United States Senate. One recent regulation involved mitigation strategies to combat the intentional adulteration of food. Do we really want to leave such regulations to linger, subject to the schedule of Senate? Can we really assume that no one in that notoriously slow-moving body will put a “hold” on approving a crane safety regulation? (The answer is “no.”)

Even more concerning, the House passed-bill included an amendment that would require Congress to revisit every existing rule over the next ten years. Yes, that’s really every rule. So if Congress doesn’t work fast enough, we can look forward to enjoying second-hand smoke on flights, allowing children to work in mines again, and a more laissez faire approach to meat safety.

Here’s the irony: Donald Trump won. Perhaps Congressional Republicans are assuming the Trump presidency will be shortlived, but it is ironic that they would impose new restrictions on a Republican administration and, effectively, on themselves. Forcing Congress to revisit every federal agency action might sound good in theory, but it doesn’t sound like a good way to Make America Great Again. It is more likely a good way to get sick from a bad hotdog.​

Steve Israel served in Congress from 2001-2017. He is chairman of the Global Institute at Long Island University. 

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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