RNC Platform Pushes Amendment to Curb Federal Regulations

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By Patrick Gregory

July 20 — The Republican Party's 2016 platform gave a boost to a growing movement for a constitutional amendment targeted at over-regulation.

Congressional approval should be required before major new regulations take effect, “such as through the Regulation Freedom Amendment,” the platform says.

According to the American Opportunity Project, an organization that supports the RFA, the amendment says:

Whenever one quarter of the Members of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate transmit to the President their written declaration of opposition to a proposed federal regulation, it shall require a majority vote of the House and Senate to adopt that regulation.

The RFA already has support from 19 legislative chambers in 12 states, Dan Greenberg, a director and counsel at the AOP, Little Rock, Ark., told Bloomberg BNA by telephone July 20.

‘Nanny State.'

The RFA's impetus was a “sentiment that regulation is not only too large and too powerful,” but also “out of control because it's not democratically governed,” Greenberg said.

The platform calls over-regulation “the quiet tyranny of the ‘Nanny State.' ”

The Constitution grants all legislative powers to Congress, it says.

But “Congress has delegated increasing amounts of legislative authority to executive departments, agencies, and commissions, laying the foundation for today's vast administrative state.”

Federal agencies improperly “legislate as if they were Congress” and “decide guilt and issue penalties as if they were courts,” the platform says.

“If there's a federal law that has bad consequences, there's a pretty easy recourse, which is you can get your elected representative to solve the problem,” Greenberg said.

But “the solution is less obvious” for problematic regulations “because you don't have direct government control over the regulators and you don't have the same kind of accountability,” he said.

The RFA would result in a “different constitutional system in which Congress has more control and unelected and unaccountable regulators have less control over regulations,” he said.

Unifying Force?

The RFA movement coalesced “a couple of years ago” and is getting wide support in the Republican party, Greenberg, himself a Republican, said.

The AOP's website lists a number of governors, state legislative leaders, business groups and conservative leaders who support the RFA.

That list includes Mike Pence, who is Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's choice for vice president and is the current governor of Indiana.

However, Trump and his campaign “have not yet taken a position” on the RFA, Greenberg said.

The Trump campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two of Trump's primary opponents—Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)—also support the RFA, Roman Buhler of The Madison Coalition, McLean, Va., told Bloomberg BNA by telephone July 20.

“They both told me that personally,” Buhler said.

The Madison Coalition initiated the RFA effort, Buhler—who serves on its governing board along with Greenberg—said. The Madison Coalition is an advocacy group supporting states' ability to propose Constitutional amendments.

Buhler credits legislative leaders in Idaho, Indiana and Tennessee with helping start the movement.

“They started early and made this thing happen in their respective legislative chambers,” Buhler said.

Now, the movement has “just pages and pages of supporters,” which speaks to how it has been “successful in reaching across the different factions of what I guess is in some way a divided Republican party,” Greenberg said.

“The fact is that there are a lot of activists and a lot of citizens who think” Congress's “powers are insufficiently respected and regulators' powers have essentially too much rein,” Greenberg said.

Possible Shortcut

The RFA could amend the Constitution with approval from two-thirds of state legislatures, Greenberg said.

But there's also a path to victory “without actually reaching the 33 state threshold,” he said.

“Because at a certain point, Congress sees all these states proposing that the Constitution be amended,” he said.

Historically, when the number of states supporting an amendment reaches 25 to 30, Congress has taken over the amendment process, he said.

That allows Congress to remain “in the driver's seat” and to avoid a constitutional convention being called by the states under Article V, he said.

“All we need to do is just push Congress to take action,” Greenberg said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

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