Today the 115th Congress convened in Washington. Experts and policy wonks anticipate that the House of Representatives is likely to pass H.R. 427, “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017” — better known as the REINS Act.
This bill passed the house last July, but never made progress in the Senate. However, President-Elect Donald Trump supports the REINS Act, and with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, we have never been closer to the REINS Act becoming law.
Put simply, the REINS Act is a measure to limit the ability of executive-branch agencies to adopt major regulatory initiatives without congressional approval. Specifically, the REINS Act prevents new major rules from taking effect unless and until they are approved by a joint resolution in Congress, and creates an expedited procedure for the consideration of such rules.
The way this breaks down is that if enacted, no new major rule (which would be one with an economic impact of at least $100 million) could go into effect until both chambers of Congress affirmatively approve it within a 70-day window. Furthermore, the REINS Act would deem a regulation disapproved if Congress allows the 70-day window to close without action.
Because every citizen’s right to breathe clean air and live in healthy communities depends upon critical regulations such as the Clean Air Act, GASP opposes the REINS Act. The REINS Act would subordinate agency rulemaking processes. For example, the Clean Power Plan, which aims to limit carbon pollution from power plants and thus combat climate change, and was the result of years of work by the EPA.
The Clean Power Plan is based on sound science and the EPA underwent a rigorous public comment process in arriving at the final rule. If the REINS Act existed at the time EPA promulgated this rule, Congress could have summarily dismissed such a critical regulation protecting human health and the environment.
Furthermore, it is well known that special interests play a critical role in our legislative process. Without the REINS Act, Congress is still able to stop regulations by vetoing through congressional review and by passing laws to supersede regulations. The REINS Act would relieve Senators and Representatives from taking votes publicly and thus creating a non-transparent process.
Americans deserve better than this, and Senators and Representatives should be held accountable when they vote to cancel protections for the environment and human health. For all of these reasons, GASP opposes the REINS Act. If you agree, tell your U.S. Representative and Senators that you do NOT want them to support the REINS Act.
Haley joined GASP in 2014 as our programs manager and was named staff attorney in 2016. She has a B.A. from George Washington University, J.D. from Cumberland School of Law and a master’s in public administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.