Chamber President: Nuclear Option Will Accelerate Unprecedented ‘Avalanche’ of Federal Regulations

December 4, 2013 - 1:55 PM

Tom Donohue

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue (AP photo)

( –  Noting that “the nuclear option in the Senate, invoked with the full backing of the [Obama] administration, will further accelerate the regulatory avalanche,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue warned Tuesday that the American economy “will remain at a virtual standstill until we cut this thicket of regulations and streamline the permitting process” that is “costing jobs and growth.”

“There is no such thing as a lame duck president when it comes to regulations,” the president of the nation’s largest business lobbying group said. "This president, or any president, can do it right up until the moment he or she walks out of the Oval Office for the last time.”

Noting that the cost of regulations already on the books is “roughly equal to the entire GDP of Canada,” Donohue told business executives and reporters in a speech at the Chamber’s Washington headquarters that the “stifling uncertainty” created by this “regulatory avalanche,” including Obamacare, is preventing businesses from expanding and hiring new workers.

According to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. economy grew 2.8 percent in the third quarter, slightly ahead of the 2.5 percent “needed to push down the unemployment rate from its currently elevated level,” according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service. (See CRS Economic Growth and Unemployment Rate.pdf)

“Projects are being sidelined, jobs are being lost, growth is being squandered, and freedoms seriously undermined by an out-of-control regulatory bureaucracy…We must lift the veil of uncertainty hanging over every business and investor if we want to revive our economy and create the jobs and opportunities Americans badly need,” Donohue said.

Although there has been a steady increase in federal regulations since President Ronald Reagan last cut the red tape, the Obama administration’s regulatory pace is “shattering all records,” Donohue pointed out.

Calling the regulatory state “a largely unaccountable fourth branch of government” not found in the Constitution, Donohue described it as “a sprawling collection of vast and powerful government agencies that increasingly answers to no one, pursues its own agenda, and shuts out everyone else.

“Stakeholders and average citizens are being shut out … secret deals are being cut behind closed doors … data is being cherry-picked … Congress is ceding too much authority to the agencies, who abuse that freedom by twisting congressional intent to serve their own ideological agendas,” he added.

Donohue criticized Congress for “exercis[ing] virtually no oversight of the huge, sweeping bills it passes. Regulators are left to do as they see fit. Even regulations with a major economic impact are rarely reviewed by Congress,” he added.

Last year, the chamber called on House members to repeal Obamacare:

“While the Supreme Court found the majority of the law constitutional, this ruling does not change the reality that the health care law is fundamentally flawed…Since the law was enacted, Chamber members have begun to feel the harmful effects of the new law, particularly the crushing regulatory burden and uncertainty.”

Donohue added that the Chamber is currently supporting two pieces of legislation aimed at reining- in the regulatory process. “Every year, major projects are stalled or cancelled because of our dysfunctional permitting process. As a result, millions of jobs are never created,” Donohue said.

The Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 2122) sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). would modernize the Truman-era Administrative Procedures Act, which Donohue pointed out “was passed before the creation of EPA, OSHA, the EEOC, and other major rulemaking agencies.” It would require federal agencies to justify the need for any major new rule that would have an impact on the U.S. economy of more than $100 million annually.

The Rapid Act (H.R. 2641) sponsored by Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.) would streamline the federal permitting process, which Donohue says now often drags on for more than a decade and threatens to “short-circuit America’s renaissance in energy that is creating millions of jobs, generating a gusher of revenue to governments—mostly state and local—and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”