REINS Act speeds march to repeal the 20th century to double time

Seems like once or twice a week, Congress is trying to pass some kind of hare-brained legislation to roll back the vital regulatory protections that keep our air and water clean, our food and products safe, etc. What is it with these guys and their attempt at repealing the 20th century?

photo by wallyg via flickr

Next up on their Hit Parade is “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2011 (H.R. 10/S. 299)” which is scheduled for mark-up in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. This bill would require congressional approval of all major rules – within 70 days and with no changes – by both houses of Congress for any to take effect.

Let’s set aside the ridiculous notion that Congress can agree on anything within 70 days and think about this: it already takes years for a federal agency to create the rules necessary to enforce a new law, due to existing review and analysis requirements and public comment procedures. Under “REINS” all that would come to a screeching halt.

What these lawmakers want is to undermine the ability of agencies to set the rules that would protect the public, and this bill would do the trick if it’s passed. The REINS Act would allow Big Business a free hand to pollute and skirt safety standards in its pursuit of profits.

What would be affected? Practically everything. A vast array of new health, safety, environmental, financial and other regulatory protections would be in jeopardy.

For example, the bill would force Congress to re-legislate important new laws like the Wall Street Reform Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (which Congress passed with extraordinary bipartisan support). It would undermine the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, decades-old bipartisan laws approved by Congress to protect our children from asthma and water-borne illness and chemical contamination.

The lives of thousands of American workers employed in mines, factories and other workplaces where standards reduce on-the-job hazards would be endangered. Making Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program more vulnerable to political pressure would decrease access to health care for low-income children and families. Even the progress on years of commonsense road and vehicle standards that reduce accidents would diminish.

The REINS Act would allow a new Congress to block the implementation of legislation passed by a previous Congress – without actually having to repeal popular laws. The REINS Act would block the enforcement of health care, financial and environmental reforms that have already been enacted.

This is proposed legislation that attempts to “fix” a non-existent problem. The backers of REINS say their bill is a vital step to get elected officials involved into the regulatory process. But guess what? Most agencies’ rulemaking activities are directly tied to legislation enacted by Congress, so the argument that Congress does not have enough input is laughable.

The REINS Act is not a proposal to improve the regulatory system; it is a back-door way of gutting enforcement of existing legislation that some representatives do not support. Congress should be looking to make sure federal agencies enforce the laws designed to protect our food supply, water, air quality, financial security and much more, not throwing up roadblocks to sensible safeguards that protect the American people.