Independent Agency Rules Could See Executive Oversight

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By Cheryl Bolen

A bill aimed at giving the executive branch oversight of rules issued by independent regulatory agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was introduced in the Senate June 27 by five Republicans.

Under the Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act, the president could require independent agencies to submit significant proposed and final rules, along with supporting analyses, for review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

“Under current law, independent agencies are exempt from commonsense rules, like requiring an analysis of how new regulations will impact jobs and the economy,” said a statement by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the sponsor of the bill.

“My legislation would bring these agencies under the same regulatory review framework that applies to other agencies,” he added.

Subjecting independent federal agencies to oversight by the White House has been debated for years without resolution. The same legislation introduced in June 2015 was strongly opposed by agency heads such as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

Co-sponsors of the new bill are Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.).

Limited Enforcement Ability

According to a summary of the bill by Portman, OIRA would not have the power to reject a rule submitted by an independent agency. Instead, OIRA would evaluate the quality of the agency’s cost-benefit analysis and place its assessment in the public record.

If OIRA found that an agency failed to comply with the new requirements, the agency would be obligated to respond to OIRA’s assessment and justify its position and underlying analysis, the bill summary said.

Judicial review of the agency’s compliance would not be permitted, but the exchange between OIRA and the agency would be included in the rulemaking record, the bill summary said.

Joins Regulatory Accountability Act

Portman also is sponsoring the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) (S. 951), a bill that would overhaul the rulemaking process. The provisions of the RAA, which has the strong support of the business community, also would apply to rules by independent agencies.

On May 17, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the RAA by a vote of 9-5, with the support of one Democrat, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.). Portman and Heitkamp are seeking more Democratic support for the bill before bringing it to the Senate floor.

Bill Sparks Ad Campaign

Public Citizen, a public interest organization that opposes the RAA, started sponsoring television ads June 26 in the Cincinnati media market, arguing the RAA would endanger children and families by blocking new, lifesaving regulatory protections, according to a statement from the organization.

“Regulatory protections ensure that we have clean air, lead-free water, uncontaminated food, safe products and other basic protections that our children need to grow up healthy and strong. Portman’s bill would let big corporations block these protections,” Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, 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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