- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2010

The American people are desperate for a Congress that reins in the federal bureaucracy. Yesterday, 13 senators and a House member introduced legislation called the REINS Act to do just that. It is legislation that desperately needs to be passed.

REINS stands for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny. The bill, spearheaded by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, and Rep. Geoff C. Davis, Kentucky Republican, would not let any new “major rule” promulgated by federal agencies take effect until approved by both chambers of Congress and signed by the president. In other words, it would amount to Congress retaking responsibility for defining the terms of the laws it imposes on 300 million Americans.

According to existing law, a “major rule” is any rule that the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finds may result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices for consumers; or significant adverse effects on the economy.

This proposal would be a major step toward better government. All too often, Congress writes laws with a terrible amount of vagueness, leaving broad leeway to administrative agencies to interpret meanings and, in effect, create regulations counter to what the congressional drafters intended. As it was put by bill co-sponsor Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, “It is executive overreach to use the rule-making process to circumvent the will of the people.”

Under the Obama administration, bureaucrats have gone wild, with the Code of Federal Regulations reaching a record 163,333 pages last year (and growing). That’s an increase of 22,000 pages since 2000. In 2008, the Small Business Administration estimated that the annual cost to the economy of these regulations was $1.75 trillion, which was even before the regulatory explosion under Mr. Obama.

If this law had been in effect for years, Congress would have been able to review, and perhaps block, massive regulations such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s outlandish rule limiting purported greenhouse gas emissions. EPA’s power grab is clearly an end run around Congress, which has refused to pass a “cap and trade” bill to accomplish the same ends. The EPA itself estimates the rule will cost the economy $115 million for the first year.

America needs a REINS Act to rein in government now more than ever.