The House Can Start Reversing Obama's Regulatory Overreach

Christine Harbin
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Posted: Jan 04, 2017 12:01 AM
The House Can Start Reversing Obama's Regulatory Overreach

President Obama has made a series of executive decisions in his final weeks in office that will undoubtedly harm the economy.

Particularly egregious were his recent announcements on energy and environmental policy: He rejected the permit for the Dakota access pipeline, exempted wind farm companies from killing eagles, abused the Antiquities Act to remove western lands from economic development, and prohibited federal offshore drilling and mineral leases on millions of acres across the country, including 115 million acres off the coast of Alaska.

This flurry of regulatory activity is simply the latest in a long line of overreaches from the Obama White House. The outgoing president has consistently sought ways to enact his agenda unilaterally over his two terms — notoriously "working around Congress" in order to do so. A recent report from the American Action Forum found that the Obama administration issued 600 major regulations totaling $743 billion over the course of his presidency. This is an average of 81 major regulations — regulations that exceed $100 million by agency estimates — per year.

Thankfully, the House of Representatives is poised to hit the ground running in slowing the growth of the regulatory state. Representatives will consider two important bills on the floor as one of their first orders of business for the year. Both bills, once passed by the Senate and signed by future President Trump, will bring meaningful relief to the American families and businesses across the country who are currently drowning in red tape.

The first bill, Rep. Darrell Issa's Midnight Rule Relief Act, is particularly important given the onslaught of regulations coming from the White House and the scarcity of available floor time in Congress. It would allow Congress to disapprove of multiple so-called “midnight rules”—regulations finalized in the waning days of the administration—using a single Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, as opposed to disapproving of these rules individually. This change will make it easier for Congress to disapprove of the Obama administration’s recent spate of economically dangerous actions.

The second bill, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, is also important. This would require executive agencies to submit "major" rules — those with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more — to Congress for review and a clear up-or-down vote before the rules take effect. This would assert Congress’s proper role in approving the rules that govern the country, an authority which has been increasingly delegated to executive agencies. It would also encourage more debate among lawmakers about the size and scope of the federal government. Incoming Sen. Todd Young championed this important legislation during his time in the House; it's good to see Rep. Doug Collins introduce it in this new Congress.

Both of these bills received bipartisan support in past Congresses; they may enjoy even more in this current one. Strange bedfellows could emerge in anticipation of the Trump presidency: Democrats in Congress who want to limit the ability of a Republican White House to enact new rules, as well as Republicans who principally support limiting the size and scope of government.

Americans across the country voted for President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican majority in Congress because they are tired of President Obama's harmful regulatory agenda. It's little surprise that President-elect Donald Trump swept rust belt states and the upper Midwest in the recent election — these parts of the country have been devastated by President Obama's regulatory overreach, and they stood to lose even further under the threats of a Hillary Clinton administration.

Congress is right to reverse President Obama's regulatory assault on job creation and economic growth in this country, and it should work closely with President-elect Trump in peeling it back. Representatives should support the two regulatory reform bills when they come up on the floor this week, and they should seek additional efforts to overturn these myriad rules, including future Congressional Review Act resolutions of disapproval and adding appropriations riders that would prohibit funding for implementation of the worst rules, while executive agencies promulgate new rules to eliminate them.

Doing so will send a strong message that lawmakers are willing to stand up to the executive overreach of the past eight years.