Scrubbing Oppressive Federal Regulations | Citizens Against Government Waste

Scrubbing Oppressive Federal Regulations

The WasteWatcher

The current political conversation is dominated by taxes and spending, which leaves out one of the most impactful activities of the federal government: regulations.  The burdens that regulations place on individuals and businesses are often overlooked and underreported; the regulatory process is long overdue for major reform. 

Federal regulations are written by executive branch agencies after Congress enacts “enabling legislation,” giving the executive branch rulemaking power.  After the required period for public comments, the final regulations are published in the Federal Register. 

In 2014, 224 laws were passed by Congress while 3,554 regulations were published.  In 2015, 79,230 pages of new regulations were issued.  This profligate rulemaking has a detrimental impact on the economy.  Over the past decade, the total finalized cost of new regulations was $858.4 billion, according to American Action Forum, requiring an estimated 610,722,955 paperwork hours.  The departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Interior, Transportation, and Treasury are the top producers of regulations.  The Bush administration averaged 62 major regulations annually (with an economic impact of $100 million or greater), while the Obama administration so far has averaged 81. 

While the purported intent of regulation is to implement statutory law in accordance with Congressional intent, the Office of Management and Budget found that less than 1 percent went through a cost-benefit analysis in fiscal year 2014. 

Congress has taken note of this growing epidemic and is working to stem the regulatory tide.  On January 7, 2016, the House passed H.R. 1155, the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act of 2015.  The bill was introduced on February 27, 2015, by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.). 

The legislation establishes a bipartisan, BRAC-style commission “to review existing federal regulations to identify and recommend to Congress regulations that should be repealed to reduce unnecessary regulatory costs to the U.S. economy.”  The review will aim to repeal regulations that are ineffective or have grown outdated. 

The bill also requires that whenever an agency issues a new rule, it must first repeal a rule identified by the commission as having equal or greater cost to the economy.  An agency could also use the savings from repealing a regulation and apply it to any new one.  Within 10 years of issuing a rule, the agency must review its potentially harmful effect on the economy.  The bill’s foundational goal is to reduce the total number of federal regulations by 15 percent.

The SCRUB Act comes on the heels of other regulatory reform legislation that has made its way through the House over the past year.  H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, passed the House on July 28, 2015.  It would designate any regulation deemed to have an economic impact of more than $100 million a “major regulation,” and Congress would be required to approve it. 

The House is also considering additional bills in this same vein:  H.R. 712, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, which increases public comment rights for regulated entities and the public at large; H.R. 1759, the ALERT Act, which forces agencies to publish detailed disclosures about planned regulations and their estimated costs, so that businesses can plan and adjust to new regulatory environments; and H.R. 712, the Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act, which mandates that agencies publish concise, 100-word summaries of all new proposed regulations. 

While regulation at some level is always necessary, burdensome regulations lead to economic uncertainty and slower growth.  Legislation that has already passed and may be considered by Congress would do wonders to ease the chilly regulatory climate that has gripped the U.S. economy during the Obama administration. 

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