Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 10:16 AM ET, 02/11/2011

The REINS Act

By Ezra Klein

The REINS Act hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but it's a big favorite among the House GOP: The idea is that every major regulation would require a separate vote in Congress. That sounds reasonable enough, but in practice it would make regulating virtually impossible, as Congress doesn't have time to look at every single regulation separately. Noah Sachs explains:

The bill would apply to any agency regulation with an expected annual economic impact of $100 million or more. Between 50 and 100 of these “major rules” are issued annually. Boehner dismisses them as “red tape,” but most are critically important, governing everything from food safety and housing discrimination to airline pilot training, accounting standards in financial statements, and air pollution control. Under the REINS Act, if just one house were to reject a rule, or simply didn’t act on it within the prescribed time period — 70 legislative working days — the rule would be dispatched to the regulatory graveyard. Or, put another way, the bill would provide one house with veto power. (The bill now has 115 Republican co-sponsors in the House — and no Democrats. Jim DeMint introduced a Senate version this week.)[...]

REINS Act supporters know full well that Congress would never be able to debate and vote on 50 to 100 major federal regulations each year (certainly not within the 70 day window for each one). Already, budget negotiations drag on for months, while battles over confirming a single federal judge can rage for a year or more. And, although the Act includes some “fast-track” procedures, such as requiring that each house of Congress take an up-or-down vote on a regulation without amendments after two hours of debate, those hardly solve the problem: That’s still a lot of floor time devoted to regulations — too much, in fact, for most of them to stand a chance of survival. For REINS Act proponents, of course, this is all for the good: Under the guise of oversight, they want Congress’s notorious inability to act quickly to help kill important agency rules.

The REINS Act doesn't have the votes to pass the Senate -- much less overcome a presidential veto -- but that doesn't mean this is the last we'll hear of it. It's really a very clever little bill: It would destroy the government's capacity to pass major regulations, but it sounds like it'd merely involve Congress more fully in the process. As such, I expect it to hang around on the wish list of things Republicans will try and pass next time they do have the votes.

By Ezra Klein  | February 11, 2011; 10:16 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: It's all about Dodd-Frank
Next: Mubarak steps down

Comments

Can you give us examples of the types of regulations that would need to be voted on?

Also, wouldn't this law encourage the status quo? What incentive would an agency have to try and change a regulation through this process?

Posted by: ideallydc | February 11, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Yes, more proof the GOP favors the status quo.

It's like voting away your right to vote.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 11, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I've always questioned the wisdom of Congress delegating everything. In the healthcare bill, much of the body of rules are yet to be written...written by people who are not elected. This is what grows a huge and intrusive bureaucracy.

I'm not so sure something like this would not be needed

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | February 11, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Why wouldn't this be a separation of powers issue?

Posted by: RZ100 | February 11, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

@wrongfuldeath - It's actually impossible for Congress NOT to delegate most of the work to the agencies. Imagine for example Congress trying to flesh out in a food safety bill, every detail of janitorial training, minimum cleaning schedule and reporting. Now apply that to every job in a food plant. And the farm. And the retailer. Now imagine that for every industry from aerospace to zoo management. And for every job. What about quality control requirements? Is any Congressperson capable of knowing how to regulate a farm, a missile factory, a chemical plant, a restaurant and a day care center?

The REINS act is preposterous, especially for a party that wants a week off for every 2 weeks worked.

Posted by: GreenDreams | February 11, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"Imagine for example Congress trying to flesh out in a food safety bill, every detail of janitorial training, minimum cleaning schedule and reporting. Now apply that to every job in a food plant. And the farm. And the retailer. Now imagine that for every industry from aerospace to zoo management. And for every job."

That would indeed be crazy. Thankfully, business can get along just fine without any direction from central planners.

Posted by: justin84 | February 11, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

How is this even constitutional? The Supreme Court held that the legislative veto (ability for house committee's to overturn agency regulations) violated the Bicameralism clause and the Presentment clause. The rules made by agencies are made under dutifully passed laws that delegate rulemaking authority to the agency. The only way to overturn a rulemaking is to then pas a bill in the house and Senate and then to have it signed by the President. I'm guessing there is some nuance in the law that is missing here, because there is no way the GOP is ignorant to the SCOTUS striking this method down.

Posted by: NICKinNOVA | February 11, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"Thankfully, business can get along just fine without any direction from central planners."

True, business got along just fine back in the days when people were getting sick from contaminated milk from swill dairies. So as long as you only care about businesses and not people, a lot of what government does will seem superfluous.

Posted by: KennethAlmquist | February 11, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"business got along just fine back in the days when people were getting sick from contaminated milk from swill dairies"

right, and it isn't just "back in the days." The "deregulate everything" crowd might want to get their noses out of the blogosphere and read some news sometime. Just in the food and drug world, have a look at this year's recalls and withdrawals, HERE: http://www.fda.gov/AJAX/All/default.htm?Label=All%20Recalls

Salmonella, lead, botulism, undeclared drugs, broken glass. Which of these items do you want back on the shelf for your family to buy?

Sure, industry could self regulate. But they don't. It eats into profits.

Posted by: GreenDreams | February 12, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

"As such, I expect it to hang around on the wish list of things Republicans will try and pass next time they do have the votes."

Even most of the GOP understands that it would be a disaster to pass something like this. But that won't stop them from talking about it for years to score cheap points with low-information voters while making sure it never quite passes.

Posted by: zimbar | February 12, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Again, ignorance is the Republican's strongest ally. This exploits math ignorance. $100 million sounds like a lot, but it's just 33 cents per person, and it's 1/14,000th of GDP.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | February 12, 2011 11:22 PM | Report abuse

so much for getting government out of people's lives...

Posted by: sanchk | February 13, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company