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Posted at 1:32 PM ET, 02/10/2011

Business leaders at Issa hearing: Regulations hurt job growth

By Felicia Sonmez

Business leaders vented their frustrations with government regulations on Thursday at a committee hearing chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), while Democratic lawmakers on the panel argued that some government rules are necessary to protect public health and safety.

Eight business representatives gave testimony at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, at which they pointed to a host of regulations across the federal government that they said adversely affected job growth. Their targets ranged from financial regulatory reform provisions to transportation, labor, environmental and energy rules.

Harry Alford, CEO of the Black Chamber of Commerce, took aim at the administration's moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the wake of the BP oil spill, arguing that other companies should not be punished for what Alford called BP's "irresponsibility and lengthy record of safety violations."

"As we know too well, BP's safety record has been stained for many years and it's the responsibility of our government to appropriately address BP's long history of negligence. ... I think we can all acknowledge however that the government's actions should not punish those that follow the law, implement industry best practices and have demonstrated sterling safety records," Alford said.

Others, including Jack Buschur, owner of a small electric contracting business, argued against Environmental Protection Agency regulations, including prevailing wage rules, which Buschur said overburden businesses by requiring them to do additional record-keeping.

Thursday's hearing came after businesses sent more than 200 letters and reports to Issa in which they made their case against scores of federal regulations that they said negatively affected job growth.

President Obama issued an executive order and two memoranda last month calling on every federal agency to conduct a review of their existing regulations and laying out a set of principles for any new rules adopted.

At Thursday's hearing, James Gattuso, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, hailed Obama's executive order on regulations as a "welcome step" but expressed concern that the move "falls short of what is needed." He urged the consideration of the letters from business leaders to be included as part of that regulatory review.

"For instance, although President Obama has stated that he has called for a 'government-wide review' of existing rules, agencies only are required to submit preliminary plans for ongoing reviews in the future," Gattuso said. "This adds little to the review requirements that already exist in statute and prior executive orders. Moreover, President Obama's order excludes independent agencies, thus exempting some of the biggest sources of regulation."

Democrats, led by Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), highlighted the benefits of regulations and argued that government rules protecting the public can't be tossed aside for the sake of profit.

"We have a lot of things that go into why some jobs do not stay here in America," Cummings said. "So the question then becomes, at some point, what will our standard be? Will we bend to a lower standard where children are being exploited, for example, so that we can make more profit?"

In addition to Alford and Buschur, other witnesses at the hearing included Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers; Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council; Tom Nassif, president and CEO of the Western Growers Association; Michael Fredrich, president of MCM Composites LLC; and Jerry Ellig, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.

In a report prepared ahead of the hearing, Oversight Committee staff concluded that "many regulations that appear to impose a large burden on the private sector, while providing a dubious benefit to the public, still remain on course and on the books."

The hearing comes as House Republican leaders have scheduled nine-and-a-half hours of debate on H.R. 72, a measure that would require 10 different House committees to examine and report on regulations that may hamper job creation. Floor debate is scheduled to begin Thursday, with a vote expected to come on Friday.

Originally posted on 44.

By Felicia Sonmez  | February 10, 2011; 1:32 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Corporations  
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