House Republicans Taking Up a Bill to Curb Federal Regulators

December 2, 2011 - 4:56 AM
Boehner

Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republicans have launched their most ambitious, pro-business effort yet to rein in Obama administration regulators, triggering a furious debate over the value of new rules for clean air, workplace safety, children's toys and many other categories.

The House was set to vote Friday on the second of two anti-regulation bills, legislation that would impose potentially stifling procedures on federal regulators. Republicans argue that avoiding expensive new regulations would aid businesses in hiring workers, while Democrats counter that Americans' health and safety would be jeopardized.

The White House budget office didn't wait for the vote to announce that if the bill passed Congress, senior administration advisers would recommend a veto.

At this point, the Republican effort is mainly a 2012 campaign issue because the Democratic-run Senate has not passed any of the anti-regulation bills the House has approved this year.

Until now, Republicans have focused on derailing specific proposed rules, many of them from the Environmental Protection Agency. The latest effort, however, would curtail regulators -- and their proposed rules -- across the entire federal government.

The bill considered Friday, the Regulatory Accountability Act, would require numerous steps before new rules could be issued. Regulators would have to consider the legal authority for the rule, the nature and significance of the problem, any reasonable alternatives, and potential costs and benefits of the alternatives.

Federal courts would have an expanded role and the government would have a tougher legal standard to meet for a proposed rule to be affirmed.

OMB Watch, an advocacy organization that tracks federal regulations, said if the bill already had been law, the government would not have been able to issue a finding that greenhouse gases endangered public health. The group said it would have been more difficult to withstand court challenges to findings that a popular weed killer was dangerous. It would have been tougher to defend statements about the health impact of too much salt. And the government would have had to weaken a strong rule on lead in gasoline.

Still to come, probably next week, is a bill that would make it far easier for Congress to kill regulations.

The House on Thursday passed the first of the three bills in this latest anti-regulation effort. It would give more weight to the impact of federal regulations on small businesses, whose owners can be a powerful political force and are being courted by both parties.

The bill went to the Senate on a 263-159 vote.