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Public Safeguards in 2011: By the Numbers, the Most Anti-Environment House in History

photo: Owen Carey

In lieu of an actual jobs plan, Republicans this year decided to declare war on regulations. They made wild claims about how our public safeguards are a threat to the economy and further job growth, despite having exactly zero evidence to support their position.

And in their furious drive to give Big Business a free hand in polluting in the name of corporate profits, to date they have brought 191 Anti-Environment votes to the House floor in the 112th Congress. By a wide margin, this Congress is the most hostile to public health and safety in the history of the Republic.

A fascinating website has tracked the sorry history of this attack on public protections, and it highlights the unbelievable numbers:

  • 114 votes targeted at the Environmental Protection Agency
  • 84 votes to block actions that prevent pollution
  • 77 votes to dismantle the Clean Air Act
  • 35 votes targeted at the Department of Interior
  • 31 votes targeted at the Department of Energy
  • 28 votes to dismantle the Clean Water Act
  • 27 votes to block actions that address climate change
  • 26 votes to defund or repeal clean energy initiatives
  • 18 votes to dismantle the National Environmental Policy Act

Within this legislative tsunami was a terrible trifecta of deregulation bills,the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2011” (H.R. 10), the “Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) of 2011” (H.R. 3010) and the “Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act” (H.R. 527). Each was carefully crafted to drip as much molasses into the rule making process, in a shameless attempt to make it impossible for federal agencies to do their job and protect the public.

The REINS Act would require any rule with a significant impact on the economy to be approved with no amendments by both the House and Senate. Given the slow and uncertain pace of legislative decisions, the practical impact would be that virtually no new rules would be issued.

The RAA is an insidious and harmful attack on public protections. It would impose extensive, onerous and unnecessary new burdens on regulatory agencies seeking to issue new rules and empower Big Business with new opportunities to challenge proposed health, safety, environmental, financial and other regulations. It also would override bipartisan laws that have been on the books for years, including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, by requiring that all agencies – regardless of their legally-mandated missions – adopt the least costly rule, even if that means fewer benefits in terms of public health and safety, the stability our financial system or the quality of our environment.

The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act would require regulatory agencies to undertake additional and wasteful analyses before issuing new rules, undermining their ability to protect the public and respond to emerging hazards. While the bill purports to be aimed at reducing regulatory burdens for small businesses, it would apply to 99.7 percent of all businesses, including some businesses with as many as 1,500 employees.

All of this was done in the name of helping “small business.” This justification however, is ludicrous.  Survey after survey shows small business doesn’t consider regulations to be a main source of concern. You know what concerns small businesses? A LACK OF CUSTOMERS!

People with jobs go out and spend money in their communities. So it’s more than a little outrageous that the only jobs program the Republicans have is “strip away public safeguards.” During the midterm election of 2010, the Republicans ran as the party that could create jobs. So, where are the jobs Messrs Boehner, Cantor & McConnell?

We know where the people who are behind this attack on regulations stand: they are for enriching corporations who are sitting on record profits. The public’s health and well-being? Ah, that’s someone else’s problem.