GOP Pushes Major Reg Reform Bills

House Republicans continue to push their regulatory reform agenda, debating legislation on the House floor Thursday, the REINS Act (H.R. 26), that would require Congress to sign off on any new regs that impose at least $100 million in new costs.

The bill, strongly backed by House Judiciary Republicans, was getting plenty of heated debate as Democrats argued it would take a legislative hacksaw to regulatory protections and Republicans said it would reduce the role of unelected bureaucrats and increase that of Congress to make decisions about what they said were overly burdensome regulations.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said during debate that the fact that the bill could apply retroactively meant that among its targets would be network neutrality.

Teed up for consideration next week is the re-introduction of the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), which would similarly put limits on new regs.

The new version of RAA incorporates six regulatory reform bills: the Regulatory Accountability Act, Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act, Require Evaluation Before Implementing Executive Wishlists Act, All Economic Regulations Are Transparent Act, and Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act.

Its key provisions:

1. "Require agencies to choose the lowest-cost rulemaking alternative that meets statutory objectives. (Title I—Regulatory Accountability Act)

2. Require greater opportunity for public input and vetting of critical information and alternatives—especially for major and billion-dollar rules.  (Title I—Regulatory Accountability Act)

3. Repeal the Chevron and Auer doctrines to end judicial deference to bureaucrats’ statutory and regulatory interpretations.  (Title II—Separation of Powers Restoration Act)

4. Require agencies to account for the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of new regulations on small businesses—and find flexible ways to reduce them.  (Title III—Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act)

5. Prohibit new billion-dollar rules from taking effect until courts can resolve timely-filed litigation challenging their promulgation.  (Title IV—REVIEW Act)

6. Force agencies to publish online, timely information about regulations in development and their expected nature, costs and timing.  (Title V—ALERT Act)

7. Publish plain-language, online summaries of new proposed rules, so the public can understand what agencies actually propose to do.  (Title VI—Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act)."

The two bills follow the Midnight Rules Relief Act, passed by the House earlier this week in a primarily partisan vote, that would make it easier for Congress to overturn regulations adopted in the last year of a presidential administration. That could include the FCC broadband privacy regs and Lifeline subsidy reforms that drew fire from Hill Republicans.

A House Judiciary aide speaking on background confirmed the RAA would apply to regs from independent agencies including the FCC and called the three bills the triple crown of regulatory reforms in the new Congress.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.