Republican lawmakers fighting for control of the Senate have made it clear President Obama’s regulatory agenda will be high on their 2015 hit list, if they prevail in next month’s midterms.
The House GOP has advanced a litany of bills designed to block individual rules, and tamp down on a regulatory system that Republican lawmakers say has run amok. All have stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But a majority in the upper chamber would give Republicans more leverage to push back against federal rules.
First, a Senate controlled by Republicans could push through House-passed legislation, forcing President Obama to veto a series of bills approved by both chambers of Congress.
Second, Republican chairmen would take the helms of every Senate panel. The prized gavels would empower the GOP to set committee agendas, convene hearings on regulations, and call witnesses of their choosing.
Third, and perhaps most important, a Republican majority in the Senate would mean control of the appropriations process, allowing the party to withhold funding needed to implement or enforce regulations put forth by the Obama administration.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE (R-Ky.), who is in line to become majority leader if the GOP takes the Senate and he fends off a challenge to his own seat, said in June that he would do just that.
“We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board,” McConnell told supporters.
Here are five regulations a GOP Congress would target:
1. Carbon limits on existing power plants
No single regulation has drawn more ire from Republicans — and McConnell in particular — than the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed greenhouse gas limits for existing power plants.
A central component of the president’s initiative to counter the effects of climate change, the rule would require power plants to slash their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, reducing harmful pollutants in the air and improving public health. But critics say the regulation would devastate coal country, and damage the broader economy.
Formally proposed earlier this year, the regulations aren’t due to be finalized until June of next year, giving a GOP Senate plenty of time to mount a fresh attack.
2. ObamaCare’s employer mandate
There may be no way for a Republican Congress to altogether block the Affordable Care Act provision requiring employers to offer health insurance coverage to their workers or pay a penalty, since the mandate begins to take effect in January.
However, the GOP is certain to ratchet up its assault on the employer mandate, a cornerstone of ObamaCare.
Legislation pending before the Senate, for instance, could chip away at the mandate by repealing regulatory language defining a 30-hour workweek as full-time employment. A coalition of powerful business groups launched its own campaign in support of the legislation last month.
The administration’s decision earlier this year to delay the mandate from taking effect for companies with fewer than 100 workers could also open up the provision to attacks, since those firms now have until January of 2016 to comply.
3. NLRB’s joint employer ruling
The National Labor Relations Board’s finding that corporations like McDonald’s share “joint employer” status, along with individual franchise owners, over workers has drawn intense fire from industry groups that would look to a GOP Senate for backup.
The finding is still working its way through an administrative process, which will surely be followed by a legal battle. If allowed to stand, the finding would expose franchisors to claims from workers who say their labor rights have been violated and force corporate management to the table in collective bargaining situations.
If the Senate flips, Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (R-Tenn.) would be in line to become chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, a position from which he could help lead congressional Republicans in a charge against the rule.
Alexander and McConnell have introduced legislation seeking to replace the five-person labor board with a six-person panel, made up of three Democratic members and three Republicans.
4. Net neutrality rules
Republicans have criticized the Federal Communications Commission for writing new rules for Internet service providers after a federal appeals court tossed out the previous regulations in January.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has pledged to write new rules this year preventing companies from blocking or slowing some people’s Web speeds, depending on which websites they visit.
The commission’s two Republicans voted against the initial proposal earlier this year and are expected to oppose the final rules as well.
GOP lawmakers have echoed their concern, saying that the court spoke loudly and clearly, warning the agency to get out of the business of telling Internet companies what to do.
If they take control of both chambers, Republicans could be compelled to go after the Internet rules through either legislative means or via the courts.
The opposition is even more likely if the FCC enacts tough rules that take the controversial step of reclassifying broadband Internet as a “telecommunications” service, which would allow the agency to draw from the same legal authority it uses to police traditional phone lines.
5 National ozone standard
The White House is weighing potential changes to the national standard for ground-level ozone, and Senate Republicans are steeling for a fight.
Now at 75 parts per billion, the standard could be brought down as low as 60 parts per billion under recommendations issued by the EPA’s staff and science advisers.
A draft rule is awaiting review at the Office of Management and Budget, and is due out by year’s end.
Business interests and their allies in Congress aren’t waiting for the proposal’s release to launch their own attacks on the pending regulations.
The National Association of Manufacturers has proclaimed that the new standard could be the single most expensive regulation in U.S. history, costing as much as $2.2 trillion in compliance costs and delivering an estimated $3.4 trillion blow to gross domestic product between 2017 and 2040.
In Congress, Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (R-S.D.) introduced a bill last month to prevent the EPA from imposing a lower standard until 85 percent of the counties currently in “nonattainment” with the 2008 standard come into compliance.
The measure is among many GOP regulatory bills that would face a dramatically easier path forward in a Republican Congress.
Julian Hattem contributed.