With Republicans At The REINS, Our Fundamental Protections Are Under Siege

This article was first published in Liberal America.

If there is one thing we can count on Republicans to be consistent about, it’s the incessant calls for repeal of “job-killing regulations.” We know, though, it has nothing to do with jobs, but about protecting billionaire lobbyists and the corporations they work for.

Recently, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal future standards for every vital environmental, public health, consumer protection, labor, occupational safety, and civil rights law in the land.

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act requires a specific resolution that any future major regulation an executive agency adopts be approved in each house of Congress within 70 days to take effect. This includes new toxic chemical standards covered under the Chemical Safety Act, and new consumer protection rules about untested food additives.

In 2015, there were forty-three major federal regulations passed to protect the public. Food safety regulations, the Clean Power Plan regulating pollution from electrical plants, net neutrality rules, restrictions on predatory lending, and energy efficiency standards for appliances are among them. If the REINS Act had been in effect then, it’s unlikely the Republican-dominated House would have approved any of those forty-three rules. Future standards enacted to protect the public the past 40 years, from the Clean Air Act to the Dodd Frank financial sector reforms, would have been frozen. As new health, safety, consumer, and labor protection issues arise over time, the existing laws will be effectively repealed without public input or congressional accountability. By requiring Congress to approve every regulation, it becomes impossible to pass complex and valid new rules on controversial topics. It will also be impossible to restore older standards as long as the REINS Act is in effect.

The Judiciary Committee’s senior Democrat, John Conyers (D-MI), said:

“Without question, it was the lack of regulatory controls that facilitated rampant predatory lending, which nearly destroyed our nation’s economy [in 2008]. It led to millions of home foreclosures and devastated neighborhoods across America. In fact, it nearly caused a global economic meltdown.” 

With a single vote, the House can now allow the repeal of all regulatory acts passed during the last eight months of President Obama’s term. They did this, according to House members, because there was “not time for individual votes on each rule.” Ironically, this is exactly the requirement they just established for new rules.

The nascent Trump administration has made its intent to unravel the fabric of American governance abundantly clear. Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon admitted as much at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week. He called it the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” The cast of characters comprising Trump’s cabinet are no accident. They represent a political strategy coined by former Reagan budget director David Stockman called “starving the beast,” whereby defunding vital government departments causes those departments collapse under their own weight.

Despite all their talk of “freedom” and “access,” this is precisely what Republicans want.

Call your lawmakers and express your disdain for the REINS Act and all G.O.P. attempts to rob from us consumer, environmental, and economic protections. Remind them they work for us.

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