The House on Thursday passed legislation that would give more weight to the impact of federal regulations on small businesses, whose owners can be a powerful political force and are being courted by both parties.
The bill, which went to the Senate on a 263-159 vote, was the first of three Republican measures that attempt to curb what GOP lawmakers say are aggressive and sometimes costly regulations by the Obama administration.
Earlier this week, the White House budget office announced that if the bill passed Congress, senior administration advisers would recommend a veto.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said, "Job creation is the key to economic recovery, and small businesses are America's job creators. In the current economic climate ... we simply cannot overburden small business with costly and wasteful regulations."
The committee's top Democrat, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, said the latest Republican attempt to stop the administration from issuing new rules was part of "an anti-regulation tidal wave."
He said Americans would suffer if the administration was prevented from protecting Americans' health and safety. "This is a very dangerous process," he said.
While the Republican-run House has passed numerous bills this year to overturn or delay proposed rules, most were aimed at specific proposals. The latest bills would not be limited to any particular rule or agency.
A 1980 law requires federal agencies to assess the economic impact of regulations on small businesses. If the impact is significant, less burdensome alternatives must be considered.
Republicans believe, however, that federal agencies are ignoring their obligation to do a thorough analysis. The House-passed bill would empower a small business advocacy office, part of the Small Business Administration, to make sure that requirement is being fulfilled.
The assessment would have to include indirect impacts of proposed rules that are not specifically designed to regulate small business.
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee, said the bill would force agencies to consider how their actions affect small businesses.
"Some may argue that agencies already do this when they draft regulations. However, nearly 30 years of experience ... shows that agencies are not considering the consequences of their actions. And it is about time that they do so," he said.
OMB Watch, a nonprofit advocacy organization that monitors federal regulations, objected to the legislation and said it was too broad.
"Virtually any action an agency proposes _ even a guidance document designed to help a business comply with a rule _ could be subject to a lengthy review process," the group said.
"By requiring additional and wasteful analyses, this bill would make it impossible for federal agencies to protect the public and respond to emerging hazards."