“YES” on the REINS Act of 2013

This week, the House is scheduled to vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2013 (H.R. 367). This bill would increase accountability for and transparency in the federal regulatory process by requiring Congress to approve all new major regulations.

The Heritage Foundation explains the federal government should be held accountable for the regulatory policies of the federal government; specifically, Congress should be explicitly responsible for major federal regulations.  The REINS Act would restore a level of accountability to the legislative process by preventing Congress from simply passing legislation that delegates significant discretion to the executive (i.e., Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, etc.) and then disclaiming further responsibility.

Congress’s ability to pass vague legislation has left the doors wide open for a wave of rising red tape.  Federal regulations were already on the rise before President Obama came to office, but during his time in office, regulations have grown dramatically.  Indeed, by March of 2013, agencies adopted over 130 major rules – those costing $100 million or more yearly – imposing some $70 billion in new annual costs on the American economy.  More regulation is on the way, as there are 131 new regulations impending. 

Congress has the constitutional authority to control regulatory growth because the thousands of regulations that currently exist are created through power delegated to agencies by Congress itself and the rules can always be modified or revoked by legislation passed by Congress.

The REINS Act would significantly change the way these rules are adopted.  James Gattuso explained in a testimony before the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law:

In addition, recognizing that institutional inertia can make it difficult to move legislation forward, the 1996 Congressional Review Act (CRA) established “fast track” procedures for blocking proposed rules, ensuring an up-or-down vote in the House and the Senate on “resolutions of disapproval.”

The CRA, however, has been successfully used only once to stop a rule, and that was over a decade ago, when a Labor Department rule promulgated by the Clinton Administration was rejected shortly after George Bush was inaugurated as President. One problem is that a CRA resolution—like all other legislation—cannot be adopted unless agreed to by the President. But few Presidents are keen on rejecting the work of their own appointees. As a result, the CRA and congressional review of rulemaking have been toothless tigers.

The REINS Act would finally give a real bite to regulatory review by, in effect, reversing the burden of proof. Specifically, promulgation of major rules would be conditioned on approval by Congress. They would not be formally adopted until and unless a “resolution of approval” is adopted by Congress. As with the CRA’s “resolution of disapproval,” this resolution would be subject to fast-track consideration. (emphasis added)

The REINS Act is an important first step in increasing Congressional accountability and reducing the regulatory burden on hardworking Americans. 

Heritage Action supports H.R.367 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Related Links:
Heritage Action Scorecard
Taking the REINS on Regulation
“REINS Act of 2013”: Promoting Jobs, Growth, and Competitiveness