Bureaucrats Have Gone Rogue

Bureaucrats Have Gone Rogue

August 25, 2011
Originally published in The New York Times: Room for Debate

G.O.P. presidential candidates should emphasize that reining in the E.P.A. is a constitutional imperative. Yes, Americans are worried about jobs and the economy, but arguing from constitutional principle immediately puts you on the moral high ground.

Which constitutional precepts are relevant here? Only the people’s representatives, not non-elected bureaucrats, should have the power to decide national policy. Legislative intent, not semantic cleverness, should determine the extent of an agency’s power. No one should be judge of his own cause.

The E.P.A. today is legislating climate policy under the guise of implementing a statute, the Clean Air Act, enacted in 1970, years before global warming was even a gleam in Al Gore’s eye. This is an egregious breach of the separation of powers. The claim that Congress gave E.P.A. such expansive powers in 1970 but just forgot to tell anybody is absurd.

G.O.P. presidential hopefuls should support the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which would overturn most of the E.P.A.’s greenhouse gas regulations.

How unreasonable, though, that Congress must pass a law to stop the E.P.A. from implementing policies Congress never voted on or approved. If a rule would have a major impact on society, or would make a major change in public policy, the rule should not take effect until proponents first persuade Congress to approve it.

The E.P.A.’s power grab is only the most extreme example of a larger malady: regulation without representation. Today, agencies not only develop regulatory proposals, but also enact the rules, based on analyses they themselves conduct.

This is too much power to vest in officials not accountable to the public at the ballot box. G.O.P. presidential contenders should thus also support the Reins Act, which would restore the separation of powers by explicitly making Congress responsible for regulatory decisions.