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Congress moves to revoke executive branch power to implement expensive regulations without approval

By Sarah May on
 January 12, 2023

As the GOP majority begins pursuing key policy priorities in the new Congress, a sizable group of Republicans have joined forces to introduce what they call the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which is designed to place a check on the administration's ability to implement costly regulatory schemes in the absence of congressional scrutiny, as Fox News reports.

The bill was introduced this week by Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Kat Cammack (R-FL) and already has the support of more than 170 GOP lawmakers, according to a press release issued by the congressman from Washington.

REINS Act introduced

According to the text of the bill itself, the Act's purpose is “to increase accountability for and transparency in the Federal regulatory process.” Its backers believe the bill’s passage will “result in more carefully drafted and detailed legislation, an improved regulatory process, and a legislative branch that is truly accountable to the American people for the laws imposed upon them.”

As Newhouse described in his press release, the measure would require every “major rule” contemplated by a federal agency to receive congressional approval prior to its implementation.

To be categorized as a “major rule” subject to the Act's provisions, a proposed regulation would need to result in a yearly effect of $100 million or more on the American economy; produce a significant increase in costs borne by consumers, industry sectors, government agencies, or regions of the country; or yield substantially adverse effects on employment, competition, productivity, innovation, investment, or the competitive capacity of American businesses as compared with those of foreign enterprises.

In addition, as Newhouse's press release indicated, the bill would also permit Congress to intervene and potentially disapprove of regulations other than those meeting the “major rule” criteria outlined above.

“Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Have far too much unchecked and unaccountable power over the American people,” Newhouse said. “It is paramount that Congress fulfills its constitutional mandate and holds our federal agencies accountable. The REINS Act would restore Congress' legislative authority and remove the excessive, costly, and job-killing regulations of the executive branch from off the backs of the American people.”

“Silent killer”

According to the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a non-profit think tank that has voiced support for the measure, action of this sort is more necessary now than ever before, citing the type and extreme expense of regulations put into effect by federal agencies during the Biden administration's first two years alone.

In advocating for the bill, the group explained, “[t]he need for REINS is clear: Since 2021, the Biden administration has pushed through more economically significant, job-killing regulations than any other modern president – and the price tag keeps rising.”

The cost of regulations implemented by federal agencies during Biden's first year in the Oval Office came to a staggering $201 billion, the FGA noted while concurring with Rep. Cammack's characterization of the current regulatory landscape as a “silent killer” of the American Dream.

FGA president and CEO Tarren Bragdon declared, “The REINS Act is a powerful tool Congress can use to reclaim the power of the purse and protect the American people from unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats' damaging and expensive regulations.”

Another bite at the apple

As Fox News noted, the REINS Act, in one form or another, has been introduced multiple times since 2009, and though it has succeeded in clearing committees on occasion, it yet to be enacted into law.

Cammack herself introduced the legislation back in 2021, but it made little progress due to the composition of the lower chamber at the time.

This time around, the measure enjoys the co-sponsorship of Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and GOP Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN), which could prove pivotal to its prospects in the House.

A key distinction in this year's version of the bill, as Fox News added, is that it expands the scope of the Congressional Review Act so that for any “major rule” from a federal agency to receive final approval, it would need to be the subject of a successful Joint Resolution from both chambers.

Cammack optimistic

It remains to be seen whether this iteration of the REINS Act will get sufficient traction in the House, let alone the Senate, but for her part, Cammack believes that the legislation has broader appeal than some might think, according to Fox News.

“I think that this is such a big issue that impacts people regardless of whether you're Republican or Democrat, no matter what industry you're in, you're being impacted by these regulations,” Cammack opined.

Regarding the possibility of bipartisan support for the Act, Cammack added, “I wouldn't be surprised one bit to get some Democrat support on this because they recognize that the regulatory environment is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn't matter what box you some point, you are going to get caught up in this regulatory regime that you're going to end up paying for in multiple different ways.”