Next Week in Corporate Congress: Safeguards, IRS Under Fire

Business for DemocracyNext week, lawmakers in the Corporate Congress will step up their attacks on public safeguards, training their fire on the rulemaking process – despite the fact that Americans support regulations and increased enforcement. Polling continues to show that Americans want clean air and water, safe food and workplaces, and a sound financial system – and trust federal agencies to ensure it. The attack bills are described below.

Of course, that’s not all that the McConnell-Boehner Congress is attacking next week. Lawmakers also will go after the IRS at 2 p.m. Wednesday, with yet another hearing on whether the agency targets nonprofits. This one is by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts. It just highlights the need for clear rules defining political activity for nonprofits.

Regulatory attack bills

On Wednesday, the full U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. Sources say the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act might be attached as a rider. Here are details:

• The REINS Act (H.R. 427) would require all new economically significant regulations – in other words, the big-ticket public protections that provide the most health, safety, environmental and economic benefits – to be approved by both chambers of Congress before taking effect. If both chambers were unable to approve a major rule within a 70-day window, the rule would be tabled until the next congressional session. In effect, the reigning dysfunction in Congress would endanger any important new regulation, no matter how non-controversial.

• The SCRUB Act (H.R. 1155) would establish a new retrospective review commission to achieve a 15 percent reduction in the cumulative cost of public safeguards. This would result in the repeal of critical health, safety and environmental standards – even when the benefits are significant, far outweigh the costs, and are supported by the public. In addition, the bill would require any agency issuing a new regulation to remove an existing regulation of equal or greater cost.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will mark up (PDF) the Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act (S. 1607). This would strip agencies such as the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of their independence, which now insulates them from the distorting influence of political pressure. Another bill likely to be marked up is the Regulatory Improvement Act (S. 708), which would establish a commission to modify, consolidate and repeal existing regulations to reduce costs for business while ignoring the tremendous benefits these safeguards provide to the American people and the many outdated rules that should be strengthened.

On the committee’s work schedule but likely will be removed, sources say, are the Early Participation in Regulations Act (S. 1820), which would require agencies to issue advance notices of their rules – a redundant and often unnecessary step that would prevent agencies from responding swiftly to urgent public health and safety threats, and the Smarter Regulations Through Advance Planning and Review Act (S. 1817), which would force agencies to adopt a one-sided approach to retrospective review that seeks only to weaken or repeal rules instead of strengthening them. The bill would require agencies to continually review existing public protections, rather than spending time developing and issuing new ones.