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 JohnsonWhistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony 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 PortmanWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way GOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE (R-Ohio) and Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA 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 McCaskill70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Democrats criticize Medal of Freedom for Limbaugh as 'slap in the face' Kansas City, Kan., responds to Trump tweet: We root for the Chiefs, too 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 PaulTrump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony 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.