The Atlantic on How the GOP Plans to Block Regulations, Including Consumer Protection Regs

by Jeff Sovern

The article is called The Quiet GOP Campaign Against Government Regulation.  The whole piece is worth reading, but here's an excerpt:

The shorter and easier-to-read of the two bills is called the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017,” or REINS Act, which passed the House in early January. If enacted, no agency could issue a new regulation unless it amended or repealed some other rule or rules “to completely offset any annual costs of the new rule to the American economy.” In other words, if implementing a new safety rule imposes costs on the economy of $10 million per year, then the agency would have to rescind enough existing rules to offset those costs fully. But—and this is significant—it must do so even if the social benefits of the new regulation, say, $50 million in annual savings from reduced health-care costs, far outweigh the costs of rule compliance. This is cost-benefit analysis without due attention to the benefits.

Arguably even more consequential is a requirement in the REINS Act that any regulation that falls under the category of a “major rule” would not go into effect at all unless Congress adopted a subsequent statute specifically approving the rule. In other words, before an agency could issue a rule that could result in “a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions,” Congress would have to legislate twice—once to authorize an agency’s rulemaking process and once to approve its output.

Finally, and most radically, the law envisions that, every year, each agency that makes rules would designate 10 percent of its existing regulations to be treated under the REINS Act as if they were newly promulgated. Within 10 years, Congress would have to approve every major regulation currently on the books, and any rule not so approved would no longer be in effect. Even assuming a Congress intent on evaluating all existing regulations in good faith, there is not even a remote possibility that Congress would complete this work on time. Under its current procedures, Congress, for example, is supposed to enact just 12 appropriations bills by October 1 of each year. In the last four decades, it has managed to meet that deadline exactly four times.  It’s highly unlikely that Congress could or would conscientiously review all the major regulations of over 100 federal agencies on a timely basis.

This is obviously designed to make it as difficult as possible to issue regulations, and as easy as possible to eliminate them, without drawing voter attention.  The FTC seldom uses its power to issue regulations.  That's because Congress has made it so hard to do so. This law would make it even harder. And it would be hugely disruptive. What would happen if Congress didn't get to Regulation Z, implementing the Truth in Lending Act, for example?  Would lenders be willing to issue consumer loans without the guidance and protection that Reg Z provides? 

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