Overnight Regulation: Senate panel advances bill to overturn regs en masse

Overnight Regulation: Senate panel advances bill to overturn regs en masse
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's a sunny Wednesday evening here in Washington, where some Democrats are stepping up their talk of impeaching President Trump. And check out the story from The Hill's Scott Wong about female GOP lawmakers leaving the House for higher office or retirement.

Here's the latest.




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 JohnsonRon Johnson subpoenas documents from FBI director as part of Russia origins probe Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production 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.

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, though, 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 eliminating crucial 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 PortmanNot a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Senators holding behind-the-scenes talks on breaking coronavirus package stalemate 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 McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties 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-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus 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 party line 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.

Click here for the story.



The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider the nomination of David Bernhardt to be deputy secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt, who has worked as an energy lobbyist, could face tough questions from Democrats.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet to vote on the nomination of Amul Thapar to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 


The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on federal employee compensation. 

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing on reauthorizing the FDA Act, including revising and extending the user-fee programs for prescription drugs, medical devices, generic drugs, and biosimilars. 



Keep an eye on these rules in Thursday's edition of the Federal Register:

--The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will issue new rules to block prisoners from making calls with contraband cellphones.

The agency said Wednesday it will reduce paperwork requirements and speed up the approval process for prisons looking to install systems to detect illegal cellphone signals.


The rule goes into effect in 30 days. --The Social Security Administration (SSA) will withdraw a gun regulation.

The gun rules would have reported certain disability recipients to the FBI's background check system, making it more difficult for them to buy firearms. But President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress overturned the rule.

The agency will formally withdraw it from its rulebook effective immediately.

--The Farm Credit Administration will conduct a review of its regulations.

The agency says it is looking to eliminate duplicative and ineffective regulations that impose unnecessary burdens.

The public has 90 days to comment.



GOP bill would create mandatory minimums for crimes against police 

Heitkamp breaks with Dems on regulations 

Trump eyes 70 percent cut to DOE's renewable office 

Dems rally net neutrality supporters ahead of key FCC vote

Key chairman open to delaying repeal of ObamaCare mandate

Trump to nominate new top telecom policy adviser 

Blood tests significantly underestimate lead levels, FDA and CDC warn – The Washington Post 

Caffeine overdose is extremely rare - but here's how it can happen – Vox 

U.S. ICE enforces immigration laws one person at a time – Reuters 



5: Proposed rules

6: Final rules

(Thursday's Federal Register)



"No one condones violence, especially against our brave first responders, but why should punching a retired cop be a federal crime that requires a mandatory federal prison term? I think states can protect their officers," Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums said in response to a Republican bill that creates mandatory minimum prisons sentences for crimes against police. 

For more on the bill and the debate, click here.

We'll work to stay on top of these and other stories throughout the week, so check The Hill's Regulation page (http://thehill.com/regulation) early and often for the latest. And send any comments, complaints or regulatory news tips our way, tdevaney@thehill.com or lwheeler@thehill.com. And follow us at @timdevaney and @wheelerlydia.

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