Three Regulatory Reforms Congress Can Pass in the First Hundred Days

The 115th Congress convenes on January 3, 2017. Their early days will be the best opportunity policymakers have had in more than a decade to enact substantive regulatory reforms. Here are three they should pursue in the new administration’s first hundred days. All of them are based on politically viable ready-made legislation, which should make this essential task an easy one.

  1. Congress should vote on new major regulations. In an average year, Congress will pass roughly 100 pieces of legislation, while agencies will issue more than 3,400 regulations. Congress can address this imbalance by reclaiming some of its own powers. The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act has passed the House in each of the last three Congresses.  It would require Congress to vote on all new regulations costing more than $100 million per year. This basic check would also help prevent agencies from regulating unilaterally.
  2. Get rid of obsolete and redundant regulations. Since Congress has neither the time nor the will to comb through the 178,000-page Code of Federal Regulations, it should task an independent commission to do the job. The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act would do just that. The bipartisan Commission would put together a package of rules to repeal for Congress to vote on, making Members’ public statements for or against reform as easy as pressing a button in the House chamber.
  3. One in, one out. Federal regulations currently cost roughly $1.9 trillion per year, which is larger than Canada’s entire GDP.  If an agency wants to issue a new regulation, it should offer to repeal a similar dollar-amount worth of old regulations in exchange. The Regulations Endanger Democracy Act, or RED Tape Act, would require executive branch agencies to follow that principle, which has had successful trials in both Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and the UK. The UK, in fact, is progressing from a one-in-one-out model to a one-in-two-out model, as Susan Dudley of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center points out. President-elect Trump has proposed something similar, and the UK experiment might serve as a useful example for Congress to follow.

There are many more regulatory reforms the new Congress should pursue as quickly as possible; more on those in future posts. You can also consult CEI’s new publication Free to Prosper A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 115th Congress.