Imagine if the board of a Fortune 500 company required the company’s vice presidents to obtain board approval before implementing any decision. Now imagine that the board is highly polarized and its members are at each other’s throats. A recipe for corporate gridlock, right?
Amazingly, House Speaker John Boehner, Senator Jim DeMint, and other prominent Republicans are embracing this dubious chain-of-command for the federal government. They are promoting a bill called the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny), which would stop any major regulation issued by any federal agency from taking effect until it receives approval from both houses of Congress and the president. Boehner justifies the bill as a “transparency” and “accountability” measure, but it clearly takes aim at the White House, which, with the GOP now in control of the House, is relying heavily on agency rulemaking to advance its agenda in areas such as health care, financial regulation, and clean energy.
Since the Progressive era, U.S. administrative law has operated from the premise that agency action should be somewhat insulated from political pressure and horse trading. The REINS Act would mark a radical abandonment of that goal, an attempt to correct an oversight problem that doesn’t even exist. It would deliver a body blow to the already-sluggish agency rulemaking process by politicizing it and entangling it in the congressional morass. And, over the long term, it would do serious damage to American health and prosperity—stopping agencies from promulgating important rules that, among other things, would help prevent bank failures, ensure the safety of the food we eat, and control toxic pollution in the air we breathe.
Noah M. Sachs, When It REINS It Pours, New Republic (Feb. 10, 2010), http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/83195/reins-act-congress-veto-gop