UPDATE: Three Reasons the REINS Act Must Be Stopped (Again)

baby with mother, holding fruit to mouth

UPDATE (1/23/2015): Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (S. 226 and H.R. 427) on Jan. 21, making this the fourth time the bill has been introduced in the House and Senate. If passed, the REINS Act would require congressional approval of all "major" rules (i.e., rules with an estimated annual economic impact of $100 million or more), potentially endangering the most important safeguards to our health, safety, environment, and economy.

Here are three reasons why the REINS Act must be stopped (again):

1. It would delay or block public protections.

The bill would require that Congress approve standards and safeguards within 70 legislative days.  If both chambers fail to meet this deadline, the rules in question would be "tabled," essentially killing them.

Taking congressional gridlock into account, it is unlikely that both the House and the Senate will find time to approve major rules.

2. It would increase political and industry interference with agency science and expertise.

Under the REINS Act, Congress would second-guess agency expertise and science on food safety, worker safety, air pollution, water contamination, and a host of other issues.  When developing protective rules, agencies already go through a lengthy, multifaceted process that includes several layers of study, review, and public comment.  Politicizing agency science and the rulemaking process at the behest of special interests is indefensible.

3. It's redundant.

Congress already approves rules when it writes laws requiring agencies to establish standards and safeguards. The REINS Act would require another vote on the rules that implement the laws Congress has already passed, making the bill redundant.

The REINS Act would cause additional delays and give special interests another opportunity to undermine public protections. It didn't pass both houses of Congress the first three times, and for good reason. You can make your voice heard right now and help us stop this damaging legislation.

Image by flickr user Frisno, used under a Creative Commons license.

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This is the most narrow minded attack on a proposal I've seen in a long time. Why wasn't it mentioned that the authors are all racists for opposing our all-knowing all-loving grand leader Barry-the-great? The "we don't want to change things in case we get a chance to run things" is the same scenario Harry Reid used in killing the filibuster (he'll likely sunset the rule when he loses control of the gavel). Just because you want a chance to line your own pockets "when the time comes" is no reason to burden the millions of the rest of America. The Federal Govt is too omnipotent! We never gave them that power. It was stolen from us, over time bit by bit. There is no better judge of "safety" than the guy standing on the scaffold, not some bureaucrat appointed to a post by an official doling out favors for contributions (i.e. Who in their right mind would put John Kerry or Hillary Clinton in the position of Secretary of State?) Regulation should happen at the local level or worst case, state level. Attempting to make a one size fits all is folly however you look at it. REINS is a beginning. A point of control where we the people can begin to regain the course of liberty we were promised.
I have what I think is a fair question. This article seems to dismiss a proposed law that will rein in a real problem. Congress is the entity granted the power to create laws, yet over decades the Executive branch has grown its ability to effectively create laws through regulations, regulations that carry the same enforcement of fines and jail. If it is possible to affect the natural course of a society through laws, how wouldn't it be possible to do so by the exponentially higher number of "implementation regulations"? It would seem to me that allowing Congress a view into the process would help ensure that its intent is followed and that the Executive will keep a tighter rein on his own agencies. To say that this will somehow "block progress" is a canard. Congress _should_ be involved and if there is a lot of work to do, then it must be done. Arrangement for timely consideration will be made. In your mission statement, it says "The Center for Effective Government was founded... with a primary focus on making the work of executive branch agencies more transparent and open to citizen input." This law seems to work towards making the "executive branch agencies more transparent", and to make it more "open to citizen input" through their elected representatives in Congress. I hope Center for Effective Government writes a more substantive article explaining why this effort is not in the interest of American citizens and provide a possible alternative.


Dear Ian,

Thank you for your questions and comments responding to my latest update on the REINS Act. I hope the following reply will help to explain why the Center for Effective Government opposes this legislation.

Throughout our history, Congress has passed, and the president has signed into law, bills establishing executive and independent agencies and tasking those agencies with implementing the broad congressional directives provided by the legislation. Neither the president, nor the head of an agency, may act alone to expand the scope of an agency’s authority.

A major reason Congress has and continues to establish new agencies is because it recognizes that it does not have the technical expertise or time available to implement many important but complex laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Instead, Congress outlines the broad objectives the law seeks to achieve and tasks agencies with carrying out those mandates, which can include congressional authority for an agency to issue and enforce regulations. Only occasionally does Congress provide specific, detailed instructions to an agency. Although agencies have authority to implement the law, they cannot take any action that exceeds the authority provided by the law.

Congress can employ numerous “checks” already available to it to review agency actions, including holding oversight hearings and using appropriations bills to provide specific directions on how an agency can or cannot spend the funds Congress has provided.

Additionally, under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can submit joint resolutions to disapprove of major rules before they become law. A resolution of disapproval must, like any legislation, pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the president. To date, Congress has only invalidated one regulation under its congressional review authority. The REINS Act proposes to turn this authority on its head, requiring congressional approval of new rules and invalidating rules that are not affirmatively approved within 70 legislative days. This in no way “allows Congress a view into the process” that it does not already have. Rather, it impermissibly strips away the constitutional requirement that the president sign an act of Congress for it to become the law of the land.

Moreover, the notion that Congress will arrange for "timely" consideration of agency rules has not been borne out over the past decade and a half (at minimum). Even when both houses of Congress have been controlled by the same party, it has been bogged down by delay and outright gridlock. It's also difficult to see how approving essential standards and safeguards on a regular basis would be a high congressional priority. Thus, the REINS Act would “block progress” on numerous agency actions because both chambers would not be able to approve all new major rules before the end of 70 days.

Agencies often spend several years developing rules to protect our health, safety, natural resources, and economy. Under the REINS Act, even if a rule would greatly benefit the public with little cost to industry, Congress could choose not to act, invalidating the rule and throwing away years of work, wasting agency resources and leaving Americans in harm’s way.

The REINS Act does not increase the transparency of the executive branch or the regulatory process. The public already has access to the regulatory process during the required notice-and-comment period. Agencies often hold meetings across the country to receive public input when developing major rules. The public can also petition agencies to issue new rules, and the public can often hold agencies legally accountable for not developing required rules. The REINS Act is geared toward one goal only: grinding the entire regulatory process to a halt to delay or completely stop important health, safety, environmental, and economic safeguards. 


Katie Weatherford

great article, well written chad edward hatten
"Neither the president, nor the head of an agency, may act alone to expand the scope of an agency’s authority." What a crock of progressive idiocy! Tell that to the EPA! Tell that to Obama and his "executive orders"! Tell that to Eric Holder and the Department of Injustice! But don't try to tell that to "ME", because I've been seeing it for the last four years! Get a clue lest we become the Communist States of America!
This president and his admin abuse regs and use it to make law when Congress won't give him what he wants. Regs should implement law. Example - law sats you have to have a drivers license and have to be 16. Regs tell you how you get it, where, renew etc. With dumbama, he would use Regs to allow people age 14 to drive by changing age.
Hey, Katie - despite any commen periid, they don't care. Comments do not stop too many regs. You are stupid, naive, a progressive and obvious fan of big govt intruding in our lives and doing everything for you. Let me guess - you are a20-something who has no desire to accept responsibility for anything in your life.
The Constitution was constructed to motivate each branch of government to jealously guard the power granted to it by the Constitution. The Congress, with the start of the Progressive era in the early 1900's, aided and abetted the unconstitutional transfer of legislative, executive and judicial power to the bureaucrats. The results are the tyranny we currently endure at the hands of the Federal Government. It is high time that Congress reins in the unconstitutional power of the bureaucratic tyrants. Congress MADE the laws that enabled tyranny, now they can just as well put a stop, or at least a limit, on it.
Dismantling the federal government should be the number 1 priority the moment the adults retake the white house. Liberals have all but destroyed this country.