The new REINS Act (Regulations From the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) is one means of limiting the tendency of Congress to overdelegate rule-making to unelected agencies. It would require Congress to actually vote on agencies’ most onerous rules before they are binding.
Implementing a small-scale regulatory budget by requiring data now scattered across agencies to be summarized in “report card” fashion in the federal budget is needed, too. Such truth in packaging can promote reforms to limit delegation and make agencies compete in terms of the number of lives they save (or other appropriate metric) rather than think within their own square, heedless of what the rest of government is doing.
While accountability and budgeting harness future regulatory growth, the existing trillion-plus regulatory state should be targeted with a “regulatory reduction commission” based on the military base-closure commission model - a format now re-energized by the debt supercommittee structure. Our lucky Congress would get to vote on an annual package of regulatory reductions, without amendment.
Speed matters. Because government acts either by spending or by regulating, pressure to cut the fiscal budget will heighten incentives to impose unfunded and unbudgeted regulatory mandates if no offsetting controls, like those noted above, exist.
One would hope that modern deliberations by the supercommittee lead to reductions in base-line spending and eliminations of future entitlements - particularly for those not anticipating the cash anyway - and substantially roll back Cost of Government Day.
But the rise of the regulatory state, unfortunately, means spending cuts aren’t enough to kick-start the economy anymore. Congress needs to move the regulatory rocks so the entrepreneurial grass can grow.
Wayne Crews is vice president for policy and director of technology studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.