Regulatory reform was an important rallying cry for Republicans in 2016. Then-candidate Donald Trump promised to cut 75 percent of federal regulations, and now the GOP is starting to work on helping the president keep his promises to lessen the regulatory burden on Americans with a series of pieces of legislation.
One of the top priorities on this wish list of bills is the Regulatory Accountability Act, which looks to eliminate costly regulations. The way this bill works is that all regulations would be subject to cost-benefit analysis, which would determine whether authorities should choose a “reasonable alternative” to the regulation. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) plans on introducing the measure after the Easter recess. A House version passed in January.
Supporters of the Regulatory Accountability Act say it would keep federal agencies on a tight leash and prevent the sort of regulatory overreach that Republicans complained about during the Obama administration.
But critics say it would lead to toothless regulations.
Even left-leaning critics of the bill say that it’s the one most likely to attract bipartisan support.
Another bill, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, requires agencies to take into account the impact a regulation has on small businesses. The idea, of course, is to limit red tape and rethink regulations that put too much of a burden on small businesses. A House version of this one passed earlier in the year, but the GOP will need to pull a few Democrats into the fold to prevent a filibuster.
The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act seeks to eliminate up to 15 percent of regulations by cutting duplicate and redundant regulations. It too passed the House in January but may have an uphill battle in the Senate.
One of the most daring bills on the table is the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This measure requires federal agencies to consult Congress before enacting major regulations.
Critics say it would allow Republicans to kill regulations much more easily, even if they just control one branch of Congress.
Currently, Republicans have the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress strike down some regulations on the books. But it’s only effective when the same party controls both chambers and the White House.
As its name implies, the All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act (ALERT) Act seeks to bring more transparency to the regulatory process by requiring agencies to send reports to Congress, which would then be make public for six months before the regulations can go into effect, while another optional measure, the Early Participation in Regulations Act, would allow more options for public comment on potential regulations.
Like the other bills, the REINS and ALERT Acts have already passed the House but likely face a tougher fight in the Senate, while the Early Participation in Regulations Act may have some bipartisan support.
It’ll be interesting to see if these new bills have any chance of becoming law and what effect they’ll have on the regulatory state. Here’s hoping the GOP can make a dent in the burden with these measures.