Watchdogs cheer shelved GOP regulatory bills

Watchdogs cheer shelved GOP regulatory bills

Advocates for public health and safety protections are calling a Senate committee’s decision to table four “anti-regulatory bills” a rare victory in a GOP-led Congress that they say is hell-bent on undermining the federal rule-making system. 
 
The Senate Homeland and Government Affairs Committee shelved four bills that were slated for markup this week: the Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act, the Regulatory Improvement Act, the Early Participation in Regulations Act, and the Smarter Regulations Through Advance Planning and Review Act.
 
“All of these bills, in very different ways, would inflict a lot of damage on the public interest,” said James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR). “Anyone paying attention to these things would have to hope they won’t come back and that members of this committee and Senate find better things to do with their time.”
 
In a statement to The Hill, Melinda Schnell, a spokeswoman for committee chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators divided over approach to election security Democrats make U-turn on calling border a 'manufactured crisis' GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (R-Wisc.) said the bills were tabled on Wednesday because they weren’t ready for passage. But she said the chairman supports all four bills, as does a bipartisan group of members on the committee.
 
“Chairman Johnson is looking at crafting legislation that meaningfully reduces the regulatory burden and can become law,” she said. “We look forward to considering these bills and other regulatory bills for future markups.”
 
Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, said the legislation should be scrapped, whether it enjoys bipartisan support or not.
 
“The hope is we don’t see these bills again,” she said.
 
The legislation Public Citizen and the Center for Progressive Reform is most concerned about was introduced by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats House passes bill to establish DHS cyber 'first responder' teams Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump MORE (R-Ohio) in June. The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act would require independent agencies — like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Consumer Product Safety Commission — to analyze the cost and benefits of new regulations and adopt the least burdensome regulatory approach.
 
The bill would also force these independent agencies to send all significant rules —those with an economic impact of $100 million or more — to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review.
 
Pro-regulatory advocates say OIRA is notorious for tying up pending rules and succumbing to special interest influence.
 
“The outcome of such a bill would thwart financial oversight agencies from carrying out needed financial reforms to protect consumers against predatory lending practices and those sorts of things,” Goodwin said.
 
Portman could not be reached for comment on Friday, but when he introduced the legislation in June, he argued the reforms would provide a more stable economic environment and promote growth and job creation.
 
“Despite exercising vast power over major sectors of our economy, independent agencies are exempt from commonsense requirements including analysis over how new regulations will impact jobs and the economy,” Portman said then. “Our bill fixes that by authorizing the president to bring them within the same regulatory review framework that applies to other agencies."
 
Among the other bills that were tabled is Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingSenator takes spontaneous roadtrip with strangers after canceled flight On The Money: Economy adds 75K jobs in May | GOP senator warns tariffs will wipe out tax cuts | Trump says 'good chance' of deal with Mexico Trump administration appeals ruling that blocked offshore Arctic drilling MORE’s (I-Maine) Regulatory Improvements Act, which would create a Regulatory Improvement Commission to review existing regulations.
 
Goodwin said it’s ironic that Republicans’ response to government overreach is to create more bureaucracy.
 
“This bill would create a biased commission to review existing regulations,” he said “It’s primary charge is to find rules to weaken or eliminate.”
 
In a statement, King’s spokesman Scott Ogden said King has been working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft a smart regulatory reform bill that would create a responsible process to streamline outdated, duplicative, or inefficient regulations while ensuring that the regulations Americans rely on every day to protect their safety and security remain robust.
 
“He looks forward to continuing that work in the coming weeks,‎" Ogden said.
 
DJ Jordan, a spokesman for Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who introduced the Early Participation in Regulation Act last week, said the legislation was tabled to give lawmakers more time to work with the Office of Management and Budget.  

 

Lankford's bill would require agencies to publish an advance notice of a proposed rulemaking for major rules.

“The bills are bipartisan bills that enjoy widespread support," Jordan said in a statement. "We are working with OMB to make these bills even better and expect them to be considered at the next committee business meeting. Thee bills will improve the regulatory process and ensure that proposed regulations are more thoroughly vetted by the public and interested stakeholders."

A spokesperson for Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampLobbying World Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA On The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight MORE (D-N.D.), who introduced The Smarter Regs Act, said the bills were never meant to be marked up this week. 
 
“The Senator’s goal is to work with the administration and other members on the committee on both sides of the aisle to seek their thoughts on the bill to help make it as strong and comprehensive as possible before marking it up,” they said.
 
The Smarter Regs Act would require agencies to create a framework when they propose a significant rule to reassess the rule later on.
 
“Right now there is not a focused process in place to review major federal regulations,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “My bipartisan bill would simply make sure that framework exists so regulations work as intended and keep families protected.”