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With REINS Act, House sends terrible message: Big Business is more important than public health, safety and financial security

They went and did it. The House, primarily along party lines, voted in favor of Big Business over public health and safety by passing the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2011.” It joins the “Regulatory Accountability Act” and the “Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act” as a trio of devastatingly harmful deregulation bills.

The REINS Act, along with its two ugly cousins, would seriously undermine the ability of agencies to protect the public. A vast array of new health, safety, environmental, financial and other regulatory protections would be in jeopardy.

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. It would block the enforcement of health care, financial and environmental reforms that have already been enacted.

One of the GOP goals is to drip as much molasses into the regulatory process as possible, and REINS would do that nicely. By requiring congressional approval of agency rules, it would effectively end rule making – and that’s the plan.

The Coalition for Sensible Standards, of which Public Citizen plays a leading role, outlined the damage the REINS Act would do if it became law in a story today by the Associated Press. Among other things, the bill would:

•Undermine the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

•Delay consumer product safety rules affecting toys, cribs and thousands of other consumer products.

•Make it more difficult for the Food and Drug Administration to ensure the safety of food and prescription drugs.

•Delay rules for Americans with disabilities.

•Endanger workers employed in mines, factories and other workplaces where on-the-job hazards exist.

The vote is on the heels of a record $200 million settlement against the owners of the company that was responsible for the huge explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. That tragedy killed 29 workers. The BP oil spill disaster killed 11 and severely damaged a whole region of the Gulf Coast. Dozens were killed this year by an outbreak of Listeria in cantaloupes. And 8 million Americans found themselves on the unemployment line following the financial collapse of 2008. Does anybody seriously think now is the time to be pulling back our regulatory protections?

Amit Narang, Public Citizen’s regulatory policy advocate, had this to say about today’s disgraceful House vote:

This terrible piece of legislation is the greatest threat to public health and safety in a generation,” he said. “Even among a host of horrible legislative proposals, REINS stands out as a particularly egregious attack on our precious public protections. REINS sets up a system where Wall Street remains reckless and unaccountable, where defective products and unsafe food remain on the market, where pollutants in our air and water become even worse, and where our dangerous workplaces do not get any safer. In short, by allowing only one chamber of Congress to block any significant new public safeguard, the REINS act preserves the status quo and prevents our country from moving forward with 21st century health, safety, environmental and financial security standards.”

The most laughable aspect of all this insanity is that the Republicans contend that jobs will be created if there are major rollbacks to the nation’s system of regulatory safeguards. They of course, have no evidence of such a claim and can provide no data to support the point.

The Obama administration also sees through this nonsense and issued a statement earlier this week that said if the president was presented with REINS Act, that he would veto the bill.

It’s plain to pretty-much everyone except the proponents of Big Business that this is not about jobs, but all about the corporate bottom line.

So here’s a question to Mr. Boehner, Mr. Cantor and the rest of the time-wasters in Congress: where are the jobs?