Updated: Possible Senate Shenanigans on the REINS Act
by Rick Melberth*, 11/2/2011
Editor's note: This post is being regularly updated to reflect REINS Act-related developments in the Senate. Please check back often for the latest news, which you can find at the bottom of the post.
There are rumblings that as soon as today, the Senate GOP may begin to offer up the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (S. 299) as an amendment to, or a substitute for, bills moving to the Senate floor for a vote. Such a move would limit the public's ability to have a say on this damaging legislation.
The REINS Act, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), would force all new, major health, safety, and environmental protections through a congressional approval process. Under the bill, if rules are not approved by both houses of Congress within 70 legislative days, those rules would be "tabled," which would essentially kill them. Such political interference with science and expert analysis is indefensible, and given the political chasm and gridlock in Congress, the REINS Act would make it impossible for agencies to carry out the mandate they have been given to safeguard Americans' air, water, food supply, and workplaces.
OMB Watch opposes the REINS Act and hopes that a majority of the Senate rejects any move to sneak such an extreme bill into other legislation.
UPDATE (11/03/2011): This afternoon (Thursday), Senate Republicans are expected to move forward with a so-called "side-by-side" alternative to the Democrats' transportation and infrastructure jobs bill (S. 1769). The Republican proposal, called the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 (S. 1786), is sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and includes several extreme proposals, including the REINS Act, a moratorium on standards that would protect the public from harm, and a rollback of air toxics rules for boilers and cement plants. The strategy here is clear: squelch full, democratic debate on damaging measures while gutting popular, protective laws and hoping that no one is paying attention. If the Hatch bill is successful, the rulemaking process would be stopped dead in its tracks, agencies would be unable to safeguard the American people from a variety of significant hazards, and the nation would be no closer to solving the jobs problem it currently faces.
UPDATE (11/03/2011): Shortly before 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, the Senate rejected a motion to proceed with S. 1786. The White House also issued a strongly worded Statement of Administration Policy on the bill, indicating that the president's senior advisors would have recommended a veto had the bill passed both houses of Congress.
UPDATE (11/08/2011): The Senate is indicating that it will once again take up the REINS Act, along with a host of other anti-regulatory attack legislation, as part of the so-called Jobs Through Growth Act (S. 1720), sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). In addition to REINS, the bill contains a public protections moratorium, legislation targeting a "phantom" U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule on coarse particulate matter that the agency has repeatedly said it would not issue, and many more provisions that would do nothing to solve the country's jobs crisis but would go far in making it impossible to protect the American people from harm. Like S. 1786, the McCain bill is an attempt to thwart democratic discourse by sneaking bills like the REINS Act through the back door with a minimum of public debate.
UPDATE (11/10/2011): This afternoon, the Senate soundly rejected S. 1720 in a 56-40 vote. Members from both sides of the aisle joined together to oppose this damaging bill.
EDITOR'S UPDATE (02/13/2012): As early as Feb. 14, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) will attempt to add the REINS Act to the transportation bill currently working its way through the U.S. Senate. Like the earlier moves detailed in this blog post, Paul's attempt would thwart public debate on the damaging REINS Act by tacking the legislation onto another bill.
EDITOR'S UPDATE (06/12/2012): Attempts to shoehorn the REINS Act into other legislation continues in the Senate. On June 11, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul submitted an amendment to add the REINS Act to the Farm Bill.