House Passes Bill to Create Regulatory Review Commission

By Cheryl Bolen

The House passed by a 240-185 vote a bill (H.R. 998) to establish a regulatory review commission to identify regulations for repeal, with the goal of reducing their economic costs by 15 percent.

The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act, sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), passed the House in the last session of Congress but didn’t advance in the Senate.

The House began consideration of the bill Feb. 28 and continued March 1, debating and rejecting an additional five amendments offered by Democrats that would have exempted areas of regulation.

“No regulations should be exempt from this bill,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.). “The commission focuses on rules and regulations that are out of date, no longer useful and otherwise unnecessary or obsolete,” he said.

Subpoena Power

The bill would create a bipartisan Retrospective Regulatory Review Commission to identify unnecessary regulations for repeal or modification and report them to Congress. Priority would be given to major rules more than 15 years old.

The commission would identify rules that should be repealed immediately or addressed through the bill’s “cut-go” procedure, which would give federal agencies flexibility on prioritizing repeals, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said during debate on Feb. 28.

“It allows agencies to choose which regulations to repeal or amend and at what time,” Chaffetz said. “However, new regulations may not be promulgated until equally costly regulations are repealed,” he said.

The nine-member commission of regulatory experts appointed by the president would expire in five-and-one-half years. But, in what is troubling to some Democrats, the commission would have the authority to issue subpoenas requiring the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of evidence.

Lobbyists Allowed

The SCRUB Act proposes spending $30 million to create an unelected commission to do what agencies already do, which is review and update their rules, said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) during floor debate March 1.

The commission would be made up of five members appointed directly by the president and two from each party in Congress, Raskin said. In other words, seven members from the majority party and two from the minority, he said.

“More importantly, this roving commission can be lobbied behind closed doors by the special interests that want to splice and dice the regulations that we have worked out over the decades to protect the public against harm,” Raskin said.

And, all rules, not just old, obsolete or silly rules, will be in the crosshairs of this commission, Raskin said. “No exceptions, no firewalls, no protections for rules governing public health and safety,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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