The business community, unhappy with the populist regulations of the Obama administration, has been working for years to rewrite the rulebook so that Congress has more power in the rulemaking process.
Now, it is seeing the seeds of regulatory unrest planted after the 2014 elections bearing fruit in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled a 57-page regulatory overhaul plan fulfilling the wildest dreams of the business community: overturn regulations from the Obama administration that are most opposed by businesses. But more importantly, it would fundamentally tip the balance of rulemaking authority away from the executive.
“We thank Speaker Ryan for understanding the needs of the business community,” said Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We can’t continue to let unelected government bureaucrats issue wide-ranging rules that have the potential to alter the economy.”
Speaking on a panel across Capitol Hill, Bill Kovacs, the chamber’s chief regulatory affairs officer, said the business community has spent a lot of time educating Congress about the Administrative Procedure Act.
“The major issue here is, who holds the legislative power in this country? Is it Congress, or is it the agencies?” Kovacs said, adding that there needs to be a way to bring Congress back into the system. “If you asked us what our real goal is, Congress is elected by the people—bureaucrats are not elected by the people.”
This shift of power, however, is not only unsettling to public interest advocates, but also, they argue, likely unconstitutional.
The “most radical measure of them all” is easily the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, said John Walke, director of the Clean Air Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The bill, however, has gained support recently out of anger that the mechanism for overturning regulations—a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval—is not working as hoped.
“They don’t like that outcome,” Walke said.
President Barack Obama has vetoed five resolutions of disapproval, which requires a two-thirds majority to override—votes Republicans don’t have, Walke said.
Still, the REINS Act is not checks and balances, but rather a radical transfer of power to Congress that confounds the administrative process, Walke said.
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