GOP sets sights on regulation reform under Trump

GOP sets sights on regulation reform under Trump
© Greg Nash

Congressional Republicans are itching to resurrect a host of regulatory reform bills that have died in previous sessions once they reclaim the White House in January.

With Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE as commander in chief and Republican control of both the House and Senate, GOP lawmakers are seeing an opening to add more Congressional oversight to the rulemaking process. 

“I think it ought to come back to the Congress. We ought to make the final decisions,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said. 

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With Trump's help, the GOP is hoping to roll back a string of high-profile regulations established under President Obama. And a parallel effort to revamp regulatory oversight could put some of those changes on more solid footing. 

The billionaire businessman has been vocal about the need to “reform the entire regulatory code,” signaling a clearer path forward for measures like the Regulations In Need of Scrutiny, or REINS, Act, which would require both chambers to sign off on any federal rules that carry an annual price tag of $100 million or more.

“I think there’s some hope, but there’s also the oneness and burden on us that this is what we’ve spoken for for years, and let’s get it taken care of,” Walberg said.

“We can’t let the people down.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he’d like to see regulations tied to statutes, more input from the American people, retrospective review, advance notice of proposed rulemakings and cost and benefit analyses.

“[Sen.] Angus KingAngus KingSenate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE [I-Maine] has a bill that actually is a BRAC for regulations,” Lankford said, referring to the government commission that led to successful closures of military bases. 

“I wouldn’t have a problem with that. That’s backward-looking, but every regulation that’s an economically significant regulation has to have built into it time for retrospective review.” 

Similar legislation passed the House in January. The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome, or SCRUB, Act also called for a regulatory commission to identify rules that can be repealed or amended in an effort to cut red tape.

The House also passed the Separation of Powers Restoration Act this year to limit federal agencies’ rulemaking power. The bill would overturn the 1984 Supreme Court decision that created “Chevron deference” – a legal precedent that says courts must defer to agency interpretations of “ambiguous” statutes when disputes arise, unless the interpretation is unreasonable.

“I think definitely we’re going to be looking at the problem of overregulation that we got in this administration. It's one that is going to have to be corrected,” said Sen. Jim InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection MORE (R-Okla.)

“I was a builder, developer and I know what overregulation does to you.” 

In October, Trump released an action plan for his first 100 days in office that includes a requirement that for every new regulation issued, two existing rules must be eliminated. It’s a proposal some Republicans say they could get behind. 

“Canada and the U.K. have experimented with that type of process,” Lankford said.

“They’ve had limited success because it’s usually so narrow of what actually applies to it. I don’t mind talking about it and looking at it, but we have to figure out how to actually make it work.”

The GOP’s plans to aggressively push for regulatory reforms have pro-regulatory groups fearing the worst.

Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, predicts Republicans will be looking to cater to Trump’s deregulatory agenda in the next session. 

“It’s a totally different ball game, not in terms of the substance of the legislation, but what the legislation will be intended to accomplish,” he said.

“The goal for them is to try to give as much support as possible to what the agencies will already be doing, which is rolling back Obama-era regulations.” 

He worries that the changes will be permanent.

“Instead of going through the long APA (Administrative Procedure Act) process, we’ll end up with a system solidly in favor of deregulation and solidly stacked against future attempts of administrations to put regulations back in place.”

Democrats say it’s consumers who could suffer in the short term. 

“There are all kinds of damages that could result from the failure to protect consumers,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said.

“I’m certainly going to fight to stop anti-consumer abuses from resulting as a consequence of these changes."