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Dozens of Dems side with Republicans over bill to limit Biden’s spending power

By Sarah May on
 March 2, 2023

With a significant number of Democrats siding with their Republican colleagues, the U.S. House of Representatives this week approved a measure designed to force federal agencies to assess the inflationary effects of executive orders issued by the president, as The Hill reports.

The measure known as the Reduce Exacerbated Inflation Negatively Impacting the Nation (REIN IN) Act secured passage by a vote of 272-148, with four Republicans standing in opposition and 59 Democrats lending their support.

REIN IN Act clears House

As Fox Business notes, the REIN IN Act was introduced by Republican lawmakers frustrated by executive orders issued by President Joe Biden which they believe have substantially worsened the inflationary crisis facing the nation.

Among the most problematic of those orders, according to proponents of the measure, were Biden's cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and the massive student loan bailout currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pursuant to the legislation, the Council of Economic Advisers together with the Office of Management and Budget would be required to compile a report on the likely inflationary effects of any executive order carrying an estimated economic impact of $1 billion or more. The Act would not, however, apply to executive orders providing emergency relief at the request of state or local governments or those deemed necessary for national security or ratification and implementation of international treaties.

After that point, the White House would be compelled to report such findings to Congress on an annual basis in order to foster greater transparency and accountability when it comes to executive actions, as a press release from Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21), one of the bill's sponsors explained.

Battling “Bidenflation”

The REIN Act represents part of congressional Republicans' economic agenda in that they argue that it will serve as a valuable check on the spending favored by Biden and the Democrats believed by many in the GOP to have driven inflation to record levels.

During Tuesday debate on the measure, Stefanik declared, “In Joe Biden's first year in office alone, he issued more executive orders than any president in my lifetime, costing more than one trillion dollars. From canceling the Keystone XL pipeline to pushing the out-of-touch and costly 'Green New Deal' regulations, it's past time for Joe Biden to address the price tag of his costly executive orders.”

The Republican lawmaker also touted the accountability safeguards built into the legislation, saying, “By passing the REIN In Inflation Act, House Republicans will demand transparency for the American people by revealing how much Biden's executive orders are costing hardworking families and the painful impact it has on inflation. This is about transparency for the American people.”

Following the act's passage, Stefanik stated, “As every hardworking family is forced to pay more for almost everything due to Bidenflation, I am proud to pass my bill, the REIN IN Inflation Act, to hold the Biden administration accountable for their reckless spending causing prices to skyrocket.”

Top Democrats unconvinced

Even though a noteworthy number of House Democrats ultimately lent their support to the measure, a number of prominent party leaders spoke out against the bill ahead of the vote.

Democrat House Majority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) was dismissive of the measure, stating, “Today on the floor we're going to be considering something called the REIN IN Act. This is the grand Republican plan on the economy. It's three pages. It calls for reports that many people believe to be duplicative and unnecessary,” as The Hill noted.

Jeffries' fellow Democrat, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) went further in critiquing the bill, saying, according to Fox Business, “While Republicans have labeled virtually any federal spending during the pandemic as inflationary, while railing against the child tax credit that helped babies continue to be fed, and diapers on their bottoms, that helped families stitch things together while they railed against the eviction moratoriums, and the Paycheck Protection Act, Moody's Analytics found that the American Rescue Plan prevented this country from slipping into a double-digit recession.”

In the end, however, those arguments did not win the day, even failing to convince the entire Democratic caucus of their merit, as evidence by the aforementioned 59 defections to the Republican side.

Largely symbolic gesture

Now that the legislation moves on to the Democrat-controlled Senate, its fate is far less promising, with Fox Business noting that it is not entirely clear that the majority will even permit the bill to come to a floor vote.

The bill's likely fate comes amid an administration pledge to scuttle yet another Republican legislative success in the economic realm, namely, President Joe Biden's declared commitment to vetoing a block on a Labor Department rule permitting retirement fund fiduciaries to consider environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors when making investment allocations, as CNBC noted.

Vowing to use exercise his veto power for the first time in his presidency, Biden indicated via a statement from the White House that the rule at issue “reflects what successful marketplace investors already know – there is an extensive body of evidence that environmental, social, and governance factors can have material impacts on certain markets, industries, and companies,” and that by rejecting the congressional bock, the president “will continue to deliver for America's workers.”

If Biden fulfills the veto promise, Congress would need to pass the legislation again with a two-thirds majority in both chambers, an unlikely scenario indeed, given the current composition of the House and the Senate.