Summer Reading: The REINS Act

Michi Iljazi

August 14, 2015

Last week, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) began the 2015 Summer Reading series that focuses on issues Congress will need to tackle when they return from the August recess. The first installment analyzed President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.  This week, TPA is taking a look at the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This legislation is critical to reform the increasing regulatory apparatus that federal agencies have imposed over the last several years. Whether it is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or even a specific law like Dodd-Frank overflowing with new rules, REINS will give Congress the necessary tools to stop costly job killing regulations.

Specifically, here are the important components of what the REINS Act will do if enacted into law, and what each component means for taxpayers:

  • Require Congress and the President to affirm major federal rules with an economic impact of $100 million or more before any enforcement. This means that any regulation that could greatly damage the economy would almost certainly be subject to congressional and presidential approval.
  • Rectifying any disconnect between the time legislative authority is delegated and when it’s used. Current policy has seen federal agencies use laws from the past to create and implement new rules. The FCC and EPA have been repeat offenders of such actions. REINS would put that type of rule making to an end and ensure that any new rules or regulations are not derived from outdated authority.
  • Requires current members of Congress and the President to ratify significant regulations. The Congress and President will have to put their names on any significant regulations. This will make sure that lawmakers are responsible for any consequences from new regulations. Agencies avoid responsibility for the consequences because as bureaucrats they are not put in front of voters. Congress and the President are, and if they put their names on a new rule or regulation, they will have to answer for them.

These specific prescriptions are necessary to stopping the massive growth of the regulatory state. New rules and regulations are issued annually, and without the REINS Act, the problem will only get worse for taxpayers.

Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has been examining the impact of regulations on the economy for years.  In a July op-ed in Forbes, Crews detailed why the REINS Act is necessary:

Over 3,000 rules and regulations are issued each year, and what does the administration know about their overall cost-effectiveness? Not much. The 2015 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Regulation is months overdue. The final 2014 edition claims benefits of $81 billion for that year’s executive agency rules, but is highly misleading since only seven rules have Office of Management and Budget reviewed cost-benefit analyses. The year before that? Just fourteen. Independent agency rules — like the hundreds coming from the Dodd-Frank financial law, and sweeping industrial and communications policy like the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality order — aren’t reviewed at all by the Administration for cost-effectiveness; on the contrary, they are pushed in spite of such concerns.

The REINS Act has been passed multiple times by the House of Representatives, most recently last month when it passed by a vote of 243-165, with two Democrats joining all but 4 non-voting GOP representatives.

With House passage, the Senate must now act on REINS.  The good news is that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has offered S. 266, a companion bill in the Senate.  Despite a past attempt that stalled in the Senate in 2013, and a veto threat issued by President Obama, Congress should not be deterred from passing legislation that benefits taxpayers and the economy.

TPA urges Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to do what he can with his caucus to pass the REINS act and put President Obama on notice that overregulation is a real problem that needs to be resolved. Stopping the growth of regulations from federal agencies is key to expanding jobs and commerce and getting the economy back on the right track.