MILLER: Clipping the lame duck

Congress considers ban on midnight rules

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As President Obama crisscrosses the country to win back his base’s support for reelection, congressional Republicans fear what he might do in a lame-duck session. The president blew off House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who sought a gentleman’s agreement that the White House would not ram through economically significant regulations after Sept. 30.

On Wednesday, freshman Sen. Ron Johnson introduced the Midnight Rule Relief Act to force the issue, which he thinks is critical to the recovery.

“It’s not a mystery to me that our economy is stalled because of what is coming out of Washington,” the Wisconsin Republican told The Washington Times in an interview. “This is an important signal for job creators that some relief is on the way, and at least some in Washington on one side of the aisle understand the crushing burden of regulations.” Already, $1.75 trillion worth of dictates apply to small businesses. A moratorium would be welcome.

Mr. Johnson would prohibit federal agencies from proposing or finalizing major rules that are economically significant between Election Day and the inauguration. He also would stop rules that represent a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, industries or governments. Orders that would have a significantly adverse effect on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation or the ability of American companies to compete with foreign businesses at home or abroad would be banned.

The bill allows for exceptions for emergencies, national security or trade deals. The companion measure in the House, introduced on Tuesday by fellow Wisconsin Republican Rep. Reid Ribble is being fast-tracked. The Government Reform and Oversight Committee has scheduled a markup on Thursday morning. The bill will get a floor vote this summer, according to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office. 

While both parties are guilty of shoving through regulations in the last months of a presidency, this administration’s track record of creating expensive dictates is what worries lawmakers. Mr. Obama has taken action on 65 percent more economically significant rules in his term so far than President George W. Bush did in the same period.

“The president has no experience in the private sector, doesn’t respect it and doesn’t understand it,” said Mr. Johnson, who was a successful businessman for 33 years before coming to Washington. “This whole administration suffers from economic illiteracy. They come from academia and have all these hair-brained ideas like taxing oil companies to lower the price of gas.”

Should Mr. Obama lose the election in November, it could be “Katie bar the door” during his last weeks in Washington. This administration has 25 significant regulations in the pipeline that would cost the economy $220 billion, according to research from the American Action Forum. These rules include new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and regulations on dust in the workplace.

There ought to be bipartisan support for Congress to prevent these regulatory dumps with a ban that would apply equally to both parties. No president should be able to force an economic swan song on Americans after it’s too late for them to do anything about it.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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