House Expected to Vote Tomorrow on REINS Act

Washington, D.C., December 6, 2011 –Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote on the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), would require Congressional approval for any “major” rule passed by a federal agency. A major rule is defined by the bill as one that is estimated to have at least a $100 million effect on the economy.

CEI experts applaud the bill for the much-needed reforms it would bring to the federal rulemaking process. Vice President for Policy Wayne Crews writes in his Forbes column that the REINS Act “would change rulemaking dynamics entirely, creating incentives that would drive agencies to ensure that their rules meet plausible cost-benefit benchmarks before sending them back to a newly answerable Congress.”

Crews continues: “In regulatory policy, as with the tax code, it’s properly Congress’ job to make the grand judgments about where benefits lie and to take responsibility for the priorities and results that emerge. One wrinkle is that agencies often don’t own up to the costs of their rules, so REINS should also hold for rules that a member designates as particularly controversial, not just ‘major’ ones.”

Ryan Young, Fellow in Regulatory Studies, adds: “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. That ratio needs to improve. The REINS Act is one way for Congress to actually vote on regulations, instead of delegating away its lawmaking authority to unelected agencies.

“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.”