Legislation Tries to Pull the REINS on Federal Regulations

Ashton Ellis
Center for Individual Freedom
3/15/2011

A group of conservative members of Congress is pushing a big change in the way federal administrative agencies impact the economy. Liberal critics charge the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act will make agencies much more dependent on Congress to pass “major” regulations. Conservative supporters agree.

No one familiar with the content of the REINS Act disputes its aim. In its statement of purpose, the bill reads:

The purpose of this Act is to increase accountability for and transparency in the federal regulatory process. Section 1 of article 1 of the United States Constitution grants all legislative powers to Congress. Over time, Congress has excessively delegated its constitutional charge while failing to conduct appropriate oversight and retain accountability for the content of the laws it passes. By requiring a vote in Congress, the REINS Act will result in more carefully drafted and detailed legislation, an improved regulatory process, and a legislative branch that is truly accountable to the American people for the laws imposed upon them.

The body of the legislation goes on to explain that any proposed regulation classified as “major” – i.e. costing the economy $100 million or more – must be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president before becoming law.

This strikes statists as crazy. How are experts in the bureaucracy supposed to impose their decisions on America without the power of administrative fiat? Since the New Deal, shielding the agency rulemaking process from the politicians in Congress has been a much-loved achievement in liberal central-planning circles. Supreme Court decisions have given the practice the veneer of legality. But if the REINS Act becomes law, suddenly every consequential federal regulation will be voted on before it can be enforced.

Conservatives emboldened by the Tea Party movement couldn’t agree more.  The REINS Act was first introduced last year by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), and re-filed in January by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).  Like all fiscally responsible legislation in the current Congress, the REINS Act’s best chance is in the House of Representatives where Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) is shepherding it towards passage.

One of the brilliant aspects of the REINS Act is that it actually follows the Constitution’s process for passing legislation.  Unsurprisingly, this amounts to a restoration project…

The article continues at Center for Individual Freedom

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