Senate panel advances reg reform bills

Senate panel advances reg reform bills

A Senate panel advanced a half dozen regulatory reform bills Wednesday, including the Midnight Rules Relief Act.

The Midnight Rules Relief Act sponsored by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP Republicans wary of US action on Iran Democratic senator warns O'Rourke AR-15 pledge could haunt party for years MORE (R-Wis.) would make it easier for lawmakers to strike down multiple regulations at the same time.

The panel's action comes as Republicans turn their sights to longer-lasting regulatory reforms, having mostly finished using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to target specific Obama-era rules.

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Under the CRA, Republican lawmakers have overturned 14 Obama  regulations since President Trump entered the White House.

The act allows lawmakers to bypass Senate rules and overturn regulations with a simple majority. However, Congress must vote on each rule individually.

“This kind of retrospective work is necessary, but it is only a small portion of the more than 2,500 new rules President Obama’s administration issued in its last six months, or the more than 4,000 during his final year,” Johnson said.

The Midnight Rules Relief Act would save Congress time, by allowing lawmakers to strike down multiple regulations in one vote, Johnson explained.

While Republicans have seen the Congressional Review Act as a valuable tool to strike regulations, Democrats are hoping to abolish the CRA, fearing it is being used to eliminate environmental, health, and safety protections.

Other regulatory reform bills are receiving support from both sides of the aisle in Washington.

The bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act is sponsored by Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ohio) and Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D-N.D.), and requires federal regulators to issue the most “cost-effective” rules.

“Every president since Ronald Reagan — Republicans and Democrats alike — has agreed that regulatory agencies should use a cost-benefit analysis for every regulation before they make it the law of the land,” Portman said. “It’s a common sense idea, it’s bipartisan, but it has never been codified in law.”

Under the Regulatory Accountability Act, agencies must also publish more information about the scientific data that shapes their regulations.

The bill would also open up major rules to 10-year reviews that ensure they remain necessary and effective.

The Early Participation in Regulations Act sponsored by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) would require federal regulators to issue an advance notice before proposing major rules.

It was the only other bill to receive bipartisan support, with Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Mo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Heitkamp crossing the aisle.

Proponents believe this additional step will allow for more feedback that could improve regulations as they are crafted. But critics warn it could slow down the rulemaking process.

“It is in all of our interests to get the regulation right the first time, rather than to fix it later,” said Portman, who added that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act sponsored by Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulDefense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Senate confirms two Treasury nominees over Democratic objections Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran MORE (R-Ky.), though, has proven to be one of the most divisive regulatory reform bills.

The REINS Act would essentially give Congress more power to reject regulations. Federal agencies would be required to seek approval before issuing major rules.

The bill passed the committee on a party line vote, but is unlikely to muster enough support from Democrats to make it through the Senate.

Lankford’s Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act also passed with a partyline vote.

The Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act sponsored by Lankford requires federal regulators to publish “plain-language summaries” of their rules online. This bill passed by voice vote.