House Republicans are turning to their business allies as they move to scrap Obama administration programs and regulations as varied as controlling greenhouse gases, regulating the Internet and modifying home mortgages.
Incoming committee chairmen already have asked businesses to identify regulations that kill jobs. They've also denounced new climate change rules, pledged to stop regulation of the Internet and proposed shutting down a troubled program to modify mortgages.
To the new GOP majority in the House, long-term political success lies in shifting the focus for job creation from government to business. The strategy includes accusing Democrats of killing jobs through overregulation and by charging that their economic stimulus program was a failure at reducing unemployment.
Businesses will have their biggest government role since George W. Bush was president and Tom DeLay of Texas was a leader in a Republican-run House. Dick Cheney, as vice president, generated a political firestorm when it was learned that energy-producing industries played a large role in his task force that formed Bush's energy policy. DeLay's "K Street Project" gave loyal GOP lobbyists access to top officials and was criticized as a strategy that allowed large corporations to propose how to rewrite government regulations.
The chief Republican investigator in the 112th Congress that begins Wednesday is Rep. Darrell Issa. As incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa wrote 150 trade associations, companies and think tanks last month seeking to identify regulations that businesses believe hurt job creation.
"In fiscal year 2010, federal agencies promulgated 43 major new regulations," the California congressman wrote. "As a trade organization comprised of members that must comply with the regulatory state, I ask for your assistance in identifying existing and proposed regulations that have negatively impacted job growth in your members' industry."
Among those receiving the letters were Duke Energy, the Association of American Railroads, chemical manufacturer FMC Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Bayer, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. Issa asked for responses by Jan. 10. He declined to release them piecemeal. The letters were first reported by Politico.
Rep. Fred Upton, new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, already has targeted the Environmental Protection Agency's first regulatory proposals for limiting greenhouse gases and a Federal Communications Commission decision to regulate the Internet.
The new greenhouse emissions rules were described by Upton, R-Mich., as an unconstitutional power grab that would kill millions of jobs.
Issa named Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as the GOP subcommittee chairman who will investigate wasteful spending and federal regulations.
Jordan said small business owners tell him that government requirements "drive them nuts." He said an electrical contractor in his district complained that he always posts required health and safety rules, but "none of my guys read them."
Jordan wants to shut down the administration's Home Affordable Modification Program to provide mortgage relief as a costly failure. He said the program has helped few homeowners modify their mortgages. The program also has been criticized by Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the government's financial bailout program.
Liberal groups were quick to criticize the renewed GOP-business relationship.
"The purported rationale for such an effort is to spur growth, but in fact this is the cutting edge of a movement to trade away public health, clean air and a stable economy to gin up corporate profits already at record highs," said Robert Weissman, president of the Congress-watching group Public Citizen.
Republicans are furious that the EPA stepped in to regulate the gases blamed for global warming after the outgoing Democratic-run Congress was unable to pass a climate control bill to do it. Trade associations already are fighting the EPA proposals in court, arguing that making companies find further ways to reduce pollution from fossil fuels will increase their costs and eliminate jobs.
Climate change, however, is one issue where Republicans may get support from Democrats in industrial states that rely heavily on coal.
Last year, eight Democratic senators wrote the EPA asking it to suspend any greenhouse gas regulations for coal-fired utilities and other industrial facilities until Congress acts on climate and energy legislation.