- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2016

As the Obama administration rushes to complete more regulations in its final two months, a new report called on the Senate Tuesday to pass legislation that would require major executive-branch rules to be voted on by Congress.

Congress and the president enacted only 114 laws in 2015, but Obama administration agencies issued 3,406 final regulations in the same year, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.

“If members of Congress must publicly put their name to an unpopular or burdensome regulation, they are less likely to let it stand,” wrote the report’s author, Ryan Young.

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, or REINS, is receiving renewed attention because outgoing administrations tend to ram through so-called “midnight regulations” after Election Day, especially when the opposition party is taking over the White House.

Federal regulators issued more than 40 major new rules after the election in 2000 and nearly the same amount during the lame-duck or “midnight” period in 2008. During the same period in 2007, with no end-of-the-term pressures, there were only 22 major regulations finalized.

Major rules are those with an estimated economic impact of at least $100 million.

President Obama is on a course to add the most pages ever in 2016 to the Federal Register, where the executive branch publishes rules and regulations. The EPA and Department of Energy are expected to lead the push for finalizing rules in the lame-duck period before Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office on Jan. 20.

Mr. Obama has enacted over 600 major regulations, costing taxpayers nearly $800 billion, according to conservative think tank American Action Forum.

The REINS Act, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, and Rep. Todd Young, Indiana Republican, would apply only to new regulations, not regulatory action that is already in the pipeline. Most federal rules would not qualify for review under the legislation — Mr. Young said out of the more than 3,400 regulations issued each year, usually only 40 to 50 meet REINS’ $100 million annual cost threshold for a congressional vote.

The CEI report also said lawmakers should expand the legislation to include so-called “regulatory dark matter,” such as agency guidance documents, agency notices not subject to public comment, or schemes known as “sue and settle,” in which an agency cooperates with advocacy groups to implement new rules in older to settle litigation, such as environmental complaints.

The House has approved the REINS Act, but the Senate hasn’t acted on it. Mr. Obama has threatened to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

“REINS would help restore the separation of powers outlined in the U.S. Constitution by making Congress accountable for the regulatory costs it imposes on the American people,” the CEI report said. “Congress has increasingly delegated away its legislative powers to executive branch agencies.”

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