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Antiregulatory Action

Congress: House passes bills to restrict federal rule-making

by Cheryl Hogue
December 12, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 50

Credit: U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Texas)
Credit: U.S. House of Representatives

Led by Republicans seeking to pare back government, the House of Representatives this month passed three bills to restrict federal agencies’ ability to regulate.

The measures will help create jobs, their supporters assert. Opponents counter that the bills will harm the public by curtailing health, safety, and environmental protections.

H.R. 3010 would have the broadest effect of the three bills. It would add layers of procedures to those that agencies already must follow before issuing a rule. Plus, it would provide more opportunities for legal challenges to regulations.

Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and sponsor of H.R. 3010, says the legislation “will help free up small businesses and employers to spend more, invest more, and produce more to create more jobs for American workers.”

But the White House says the measure, which the House passed on Dec. 1, “would impose unnecessary new procedures on agencies and invite frivolous litigation.”

Also, H.R. 3010 would require that agencies, in most cases, adopt the least costly regulatory option. Although sounding “seductively simple,” this provision would allow businesses to stymie rule-making by offering endless proposals for less costly alternatives, says Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who opposed the bill.

The second bill, H.R. 10, would require Senate and House approval of major regulations—those with an annual impact on the economy of $100 million or more—before they could take effect.

The sponsor of H.R. 10, Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.), says the bill, which passed on Dec. 7, “will ensure congressional accountability for the regulations that have the greatest impact on our economy.”

However, Congress does not have the resources or time to ensure that needed regulations will take effect, says the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. H.R. 10 would lead to politics rather than scientific judgments driving regulation, says the organization, which is composed of consumer, labor, scientific, faith, health, and environmental groups.

The third bill, H.R. 527, would require agencies to conduct more analysis of the impact of planned regulations on small businesses than is currently required. The House passed it on Dec. 1.

The three bills now move to the Senate, where they face an uphill battle, according to activist groups. White House advisers are recommending that President Barack Obama veto the measures if the Senate passes them.



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