- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 7, 2011

House Republicans took another crack Wednesday at reining in federal regulators, passing a measure that would transfer significant rule-making authority from the White House to Congress.

Unlike similar GOP attempts this year, the bill — which passed along party lines — is almost certain to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate, leaving Republicans with little to show for their yearlong pledge to curtail what they say are overreaching and business-damaging federal regulations.

A major component of the House Republicans jobs initiative since the party took control of the chamber in January has been to scale back government regulations, which they say are killing jobs and hindering U.S. businesses in the global market.

“America’s small businesses are the engine of economic growth and job creation, and Washington shouldn’t be making it more difficult for them to succeed,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California Republican. “Under Democrat-controlled Washington, the federal government has become a factory of red tape.”

A Washington Times analysis shows that 15 bills aimed at curtailing the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, the Energy Department and other agencies have passed the House this year. Yet all are stuck in the Senate, where Democratic leaders have little appetite to bring them to the floor for a vote.

The House GOP’s latest effort, dubbed the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, would require both chambers of Congress to take an up-or-down vote on — and for the president to approve — all new major rules before they can be enforced. The legislation defines major rules as those that have an annual economic impact of at least $100 million.

The bill passed by vote of 241-184 with the support of only four Democrats. No Republican voted against the measure.

The measure “will dramatically improve transparency and accountability in the regulatory process, and will help create a better environment for private-sector job growth,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

But opponents say the bill would have a chilling effect on public health and safety, and would erode environmental protections. They also say it would increase the pressure lawmakers face from lobbyists.

“Because these are major regulations that really truly are about the health, safety and well-being of the American public, the idea that political brinkmanship and partisan wrangling would delay them, on a gut level, is truly frightening,” said Jessica Randall, a regulatory policy analyst with OMB Watch, a liberal-leaning public advocacy group.

“In addition to the constitutional questions, you have to think of the policy involved and that [Congress] was not set up to make that kind of decision effectively.”

Added Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat: ” If REINS passes, it will replace the rule of law with the rule of the jungle.”

The White House has threatened to veto the bill should it somehow pass Congress, saying it would throw all major regulations into a “months-long limbo,” foster uncertainty and impede business investment.

But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Geoff Davis, Kentucky Republican, said regulatory compliance is hurting small businesses by costing an average of about $10,500 per employee annually.

“At a time of high unemployment, we must do something about this massive burden,” he said.

• Sean Lengell can be reached at slengell@washingtontimes.com.

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