GOP sharpens ax for regulations

GOP sharpens ax for regulations
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Republicans are using funding legislation for the government to try and unravel federal regulations that they say go too far.

From the new dietary guidelines that favor a vegan-like diet to regulations imposed on power plants to reduce their carbon footprint, Republicans are using the appropriations process to either delay rules or block funding for their implementation.


President Obama would have to sign these appropriations measures, so the provisions have the potential to sink a final spending package.

But the policy provisions, known as riders, could be open to negotiation, as Democrats have agreed in recent years to block and weaken some federal regulations in massive spending packages in return for concessions from the GOP.

Here are five key regulations that Republicans are trying to defeat this time around.

Dietary guidelines

A provision in a $153.2 billion health, education and labor Senate spending bill, sponsored by Republicans, takes aim at new dietary guidelines that might recommend people eat less meat to help the environment.

“The Committee is concerned that the advisory committee for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans considered issues outside of the nutritional focus of the panel,” the Republicans said in a report about the bill.

In early April, a federal panel for the first time recommended that new dietary guidelines focus on environmental sustainability. That means cutting down on meat like chicken, pork and beef, the panel said.

Groups representing the meat-producing industries have largely panned the preliminary recommendations, which the government is expected to finalize later this year.

The Senate spending bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to make sure the advisory panel focuses only on nutrition recommendations that are based on “a preponderance of nutritional and dietary scientific evidence.”

Carbon pollution reductions

Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) landmark Clean Power Plan would be blocked under a $30.2 billion GOP-sponsored bill in the House. The agency would not be able to use any government funding to propose, finalize, implement or enforce the regulation, which was first unveiled in June 2014.

The proposed rule, which is the main pillar of Obama’s climate change agenda, requires power plants nationwide to cut their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The final version of the regulation is due out in August.

The EPA is also expected to outline how they would ensure states comply with the rules if they refuse to craft their own plans to cut power plant emissions.

The White House warned in a veto threat of the House bill last week that the rider would place the country “at risk from extreme weather events, wildland fire, poor air quality, global instability, accelerated environmental degradation, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease carriers such as mosquitos and ticks.”

The bill’s proposed 13 percent cut to EPA funding next year, the White House added, would “significantly undermine” the implementation of the climate plan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats go down to the wire with Manchin Schumer unloads on GOP over elections bill: 'How despicable of a man is Donald Trump?' This week: Senate set for voting rights fight MORE (R-Ky.), a member of the Senate Appropriations panel and a fierce defender of coal, won a similar rider in his chamber’s version of the same bill.

His proposal would ban the EPA from forcing federal plans on states that don’t support what he calls the administration’s “onerous greenhouse gas regulations.”

“If enacted, the measure I secured today will guarantee that governors who heeded my warning will be protected, while also prohibiting funding for the EPA to force states to submit an implementation plan,” McConnell said.

E-cigarette oversight

House Republicans are pushing a $20.7 billion funding bill that would make it more difficult for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate electronic cigarettes, which contain nicotine.  

The FDA announced plans in April 2014 to issue new rules for e-cigarettes that would force manufacturers to create new health warnings labels and ban sales to people who are under the age of 18. In 2009, Congress passed a law that gave FDA the authority to regulate all tobacco products it believes should receive oversight.

Under the rules, which are expected to be finished this summer, e-cigarette manufacturers would only be allowed to begin marketing their products after a lengthy review process.

Public health groups have expressed concern that the spending bill’s language wouldn’t protect children from these products.

Calorie counts

That same $20.7 billion House bill also includes a provision that would delay by one year the implementation of a new menu labeling regulation that mandates calorie counts.

The regulation, announced last November, is scheduled to take effect Dec. 1 and would require any food establishments with more than 20 locations to list the number of calories in the prepared food they sell.

Under the House measure, the regulation wouldn’t take effect until Dec. 1, 2016.

Lawmakers from both parties have been urging the FDA to push back the deadline for the regulation, which was ordered as part of ObamaCare.

The rider is intended “to give restaurants, local supermarkets, grocery stores, and similar retail establishments adequate time to comply with the law,” Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said.

Union election rules

In the House and Senate spending bills that fund health, education and labor programs, Republicans included provisions that would either prohibit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from using electronic voting in union elections or prevent it from issuing any future rules that allow those practices.

Those provisions target regulations the NLRB published last December that would allow workers to organize more quickly through faster union elections. Republicans refer to the policy, which took effect in mid-April, as the “ambush election” rule.

Those provisions target regulations the NLRB published last December that would allow workers to organize more quickly through faster union elections. Republicans refer to the policy, which took effect in mid-April, as the “ambush election” rule.

While pro-labor groups contend the regulation will help speed up union elections, GOP lawmakers argue it gives businesses little time to prepare. They say the regulation will speed up union elections to as little as two weeks after a petition is filed.

Republicans in both chambers of Congress passed a measure earlier this year that would have reversed the regulation, but they were unable to override Obama’s veto.

In a letter to the leaders of the House Appropriations panel, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanYang: 'Defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City' New York mayoral candidates go viral for vastly underestimating housing costs Five things to watch in the New York City mayoral race MORE warned reversing the rule would harm workers.

“The bill blocks NLRB's commonsense rules to level the playing field for workers who want to vote on whether to have a voice in the workplace,” he said.