Republicans and Democrats released their 2012 platforms Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, respectively, offering starkly different approaches to worker safety in the runup to the presidential election, with the incumbent party offering to stay the course and the challenger agitating for change.
The Republican platform, approved at the party's national convention in Tampa, includes a plank that would trim the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's slate of pending rulemakings.
Democrats countered with a platform that stressed the need to continue with tough enforcement against employers that OSHA deems recalcitrant.
“Many regulations are necessary, like those which ensure the safety of food and medicine, especially from overseas,” reads the Republican document. “But no peril justifies the regulatory impact of Obamacare on the practice of medicine, the Dodd-Frank Act on financial services, or the Environmental Protection Agency's and OSHA's overreaching regulation agenda. A Republican Congress and president will repeal the first and second, and rein in the third.”
Currently in OSHA's rulemaking pipeline are regulations addressing permissible exposure limits to airborne contaminants, silica, infectious diseases, bloodborne pathogens, recordkeeping, walking work surfaces and personal fall protection systems, and an injury and illness prevention program (42 OSHR 69, 1/26/12).
The GOP also said it supports the mandatory reconsideration of old, outdated regulations, and endorses the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 10, S. 299), which would require Congress to vote on all significant regulations--those expected to cost the economy at least $100 million--before they can take effect.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has pledged to implement the core provisions of the REINS Act by executive order, even if Congress does not approve it.
The House passed the bill in December 2011, but the Senate is unlikely to take it up. Should Romney win the presidency, the bill would have to be reintroduced in each chamber in the new Congress (41 OSHR 1071, 12/15/11; see related story).
“The bottom line on regulations is jobs,” the Republican platform reads. “In listening to America, one constant we have heard is the job-crippling effect of even well-intentioned regulation. That makes it all the more important for federal agencies to be judicious about the impositions they create on businesses, especially small businesses.”
The party also calls for a moratorium on new major rules until a Republican presidential administration can review existing rules “to ensure that they have a sound basis in science and will be cost-effective.”
Democrats, by contrast, offered a platform that promises to maintain the administration's current course on worker protections.
One plank vows to “continue to adopt and enforce comprehensive safety standards.” Another offers to keep seeking and catching employers that fraudulently misclassify full-time workers as independent contractors in order to evade their legal obligations.
But the Democratic platform also finds limited common ground with Republicans in acknowledging a need to simplify the thicket of federal regulations. The Obama administration has, almost since it took office, maintained that stance as a central part of its messaging.
“Rules should be simpler and more flexible, and regulations should be based on sound science and secure Americans' freedom of choice,” the platform reads.
Obama's approach to regulation has been “simpler, smarter, and more cost-effective” than previous approaches, which were “riddled with special rules written by lobbyists,” according to the platform. “But there's no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly.”
The platform also points to Obama's efforts to review and streamline outdated regulations, which Democrats say will save at least $10 billion over five years (42 OSHR 445, 5/17/12)
By Stephen Lee
The text of the Republican National Committee's 2012 platform is available at http://www.gop.com/2012-republican-platform_home/.
The text of the Democratic National Committee's 2012 platform is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/104831247/2012-National-Platform.