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Regulatory Accountability Act Poised to Bring Dramatic Improvement to Government Rulemaking

The early push for regulatory reform in the 115th Congress continues to zoom forward, with successful votes on the Midnight Rule Relief Act and the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act already completed. Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017, recently introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

My colleague Ryan Young has a concise rundown of Goodlatte’s bill, which includes several provisions that have been considered and approved by the House in previous sessions (including one with the same name as the current bill) listed below. The reforms include:

  • The (original) Regulatory Accountability Act, which would require agencies to use less costly regulations, rather than more costly regulations, to achieve a given objective.
  • The Separation of Powers Restoration Act, which would enable the judiciary to “end judicial deference to bureaucrats’ statutory and regulatory interpretations.” This reform would go a long way to lighten what Wayne Crews calls “regulatory dark matter.”
  • The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, which would require agencies to explain how their actions affect small business owners, employees, and customers.
  • The REVIEW Act, which would prevent new rules with billion-dollar annual costs from taking effect until litigation against them has been resolved. It would not affect current regulations.
  • The ALERT Act, which would require agencies to publish already-mandatory transparency reports that they regularly dodge.
  • The Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act, which would require agencies to publish summaries of their new rules in the English language, more or less.

My colleague Wayne Crews also wrote an analysis of the Regulatory Accountability Act’s previous incarnation in 2015, noting its encouraging history of bipartisan support. Not only that, but many of its provisions were similar to reforms that President Obama himself implemented via executive order:

The White House fury [a veto threat] brought to my mind the paradox that--in the flurry of all the executive orders and pen-and-phone actions to expand the State--Obama has actually issued four executive orders to ostensibly reform the regulatory process. Some provisions are reminiscent of what's in the RAA.

This is the Twilight Zone moment when Obama presumably would to veto his own Executive Orders if they were bills.

President Obama’s own E.O. 13565 on review and reform (“Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review”) was a pledge to roll back misguided rules. A few billion dollars in savings were initially achieved, with Obama wisecracking in the 2013 State of the Union Address about a rule designating spilled milk an “oil.” Such trivialities are not the source of regulatory excess; the few billions cut via executive order have been swamped by rules otherwise issued.

Still, four of Obama’s executive orders address regulatory relief. The others are E.O. 13579 (Regulation and Independent Regulatory Agencies), asking independent agencies to review their rules like executive agencies; 13609 (Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation); and 13610 (Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens). All are here.

Back in 2015, Wayne urged the White House to recognize the existing common ground and “get with the program” when it came to reducing burdens on job creators. Unfortunately, they didn’t budge. With Obama’s veto threat about to be rendered moot, however, the future for the Regulatory Accountability Act is bright. If signed into law by the next president, its provisions will have a dramatically positive effect on jobs, productivity, innovation, and overall economic growth. And that’s a program we should all be happy to get with.