Koch Brothers’ “Christmas Present” Up for House Vote

The U.S. House of Representatives votes soon on a series of deregulatory bills that, according to the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), “threaten vital health, environmental, safety and financial regulations.”

Voting is expected on the Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 3010) and the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (H.R. 527) on December 1, and on The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 10) next week.

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) calls these bills “an early Christmas present to the Koch Brothers, who made this Congress possible.”

The REINS Act (H.R. 10)

The REINS Act would require any regulatory rule with an impact of $100 million or more on the economy to be subject to approval of the House and Senate within 70 legislative days before taking effect. If Congress were to fail to act on the proposal, with a few exceptions, the rule could not be brought up again until the next Congress.

After Congress passes a law, federal agencies are charged with implementing the law often with a series of more detailed regulations. The Administrative Procedures Act allows interested parties and the public to participate in a detailed fashion in the the rulemaking process. The REINS Act is widely viewed as a way to kill or delay public health, safety or environmental regulations. It would “allow a single member of Congress, at the behest of some powerful special interest or campaign contributor, [to] block science-based lead standards for children's products, block crib safety rules or any number of protections that provide a safer consumer marketplace,” according to consumer advocate Ed Mierswinski of U.S. PIRG (the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups).

According to Representative Connolly, the REINS Act represents the “171st attack” on public health and the environment in this Congress. The REINS Act was already voted down in the Senate earlier this month as part of the so-called “Republican Jobs Bill.”

The Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 3010)

The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) would require all government agencies to adopt the least costly rule — “regardless of the impact on public health and safety, the health of our financial system, or the quality of our environment,” CSS notes in a letter to House Representatives.

Sidney Shapiro, administrative law professor at Wake Forest University and Vice Chair of the Center for Progressive Reform, calls HR 3010 “truly radical,” noting that it would “add over 60 new procedural and analytical requirements to agency rule making process,” making it “take somewhere between 6 and 12 years to propose a major rule.” The bill, he says, “in one swoop, would overrule 25 different environmental, health and safety laws.”

Laws overruled would include the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, according to CSS.

Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (H.R. 527)

The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (RFIA) would amend the current Regulatory Flexibility Act “to ensure complete analysis of potential impacts on small entities of rules.” This certainly sounds reasonable.

However, as CSS explains: “Its scope is breathtakingly broad, since it would include regulations that could conceivably have an indirect impact on small businesses. Virtually any action an agency proposes — even a guidance document designed to help a business comply with a rule — could be subject to a lengthy regulatory process. By requiring additional and wasteful analyses, this bill would make it impossible for federal agencies to protect the public and respond to emerging hazards.”

Shapiro notes that, for “agencies already teetering on the brink of disfunction, particularly in light of budget cuts (and with more coming), it's getting more and more difficult getting regulations out the door that we need, and it wouldn't take much of a push to make them entirely dysfunctional. So even the RFIA is bad news for the American public.”

“Job Killing” Regulations

The House GOP is going after the rulemaking process arguing that “excessive” government regulations are “a big wet blanket” smothering the economic recovery. But, mass layoffs data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show otherwise. A recent article in the Washington Post reported that in “2010, 0.3 percent of the people who lost their jobs in layoffs were let go because of 'government regulations/intervention.' By comparison, 25 percent were laid off because of a drop in business demand.”

Representative Connolly remembers that: “after the Clean Air Act Amendment passed in 1990, utility rates did not go up, they fell 36% in that period, and job creation was among the most robust at any time in U.S. history.”

In the face of the BP oil spill, the Massey mining disaster and the Wall Street economic crisis that cost eight million Americans their jobs, the GOP's argument that excessive regulation is killing the economy goes beyond chutzpah into the realm of deadly disinformation.