REINS Act Introduced In The House

CEI has been pushing a common-sense regulatory reform idea for years: Congress should vote on all regulations with an annual cost of $100 million or more. Agencies don’t always wait for Congress to pass a bill before issuing rules; we call this regulation without representation. One way to mitigate the problem is to require members of Congress to go on record as supporting or opposing these rules. The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny, or REINS Act, introduced today in the House by Rep. Todd Young (no relation), would do just that. REINS is actually quite modest, since it only covers major rules. But it is a needed step in the fight to end regulation without representation. In a press release, Wayne Crews had this to say:

“Congress needs to take responsibility for the costs and results of federal programs,” he continued. “REINS would induce members of Congress to acknowledge and affirm that the costs of agency rules, now approaching $2 trillion dollars annually in the aggregate, are tolerable to them and to their constituents before they go into effect.”

Crews raised one concern with the bill: It is limited to major rules, a designation many rules deserve but escape. “Agencies, both executive and independent, often don’t own up to the costs of their rules at all. The Federal Communications Commission’s sweeping net neutrality order and rules stemming from Dodd-Frank financial legislation are prime examples,” Crews explained. “So REINS should also hold for rules that a member designates as particularly controversial, not just ‘major’ ones.”

“REINS-style reform is long overdue,” he noted. “Bills requiring Congress to affirm what regulators end up doing after they ‘pass the bill’ and later ‘find out what is in it’ have been proposed since the 1990s. If Congress can’t cut spending to grow the economy, maybe it can stem the regulatory burden to accomplish the same goal, which would lessen budget woes as a side effect.”

Here are my comments:

“There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.

“It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.”

This is a bill to keep an eye on. REINS passed the House last Congress. But it stalled in the Senate, where all good bills go to die. May reformers have better luck this time.

Read the entire press release here. Rep. Young’s office has a press release here.