House Republicans Poised to Gut Our System of Public Protections

CSS Opposes Three Potentially Devastating Anti-Regulatory Bills

Jan. 4, 2017

Contact: Lisa Gilbert, lgilbert@citizen.org, (551) 404-5200
Michell McIntyre, mmcintyre@citizen.org, (202) 454-5156
David Rosen, drosen@citizen.org, (202) 588-7742

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As one of their first orders of business, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are set to launch a series of potentially devastating attacks on our system of public protections – attacks that would leave tens of millions of Americans vulnerable to job losses, wage cuts, workplace and environmental disasters, and more. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) urges House members to reject the Midnight Rules Relief Act, the REINS Act and the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), which will be voted on in the days ahead.

“Midnight Rules, REINS and the RAA would wipe out our ability to establish and enforce public protections – with catastrophic consequences for our health, safety and economic security,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and coalition chair. “That House Republicans are choosing to make this package of bills one of their first orders of business shows that they believe their constituents are corporations and the superrich, not the American people.”

“Whether it’s by prohibiting big banks from destroying our economy, stopping credit card companies from charging billions in hidden fees, or preventing environmental catastrophes that poison our water and air, regulatory protections save lives, safeguards our jobs and pocketbooks, and hold big corporations accountable. Eviscerating our system of public protections would allow giant corporations to devastate entire communities and get away with it,” Weissman added.

The Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 21) would expand the scope of the Congressional Review Act, allowing Congress to wipe out multiple regulatory protections at a time, instead of repealing rules with individual resolutions of disapproval. Members of Congress could strike down dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of vital public safeguards all at once.

The REINS Act (H.R. 26) would require all new economically significant regulations – the big-ticket public protections that provide the most health, safety, environmental and economic benefits – to be approved within a narrow window of time by both chambers of Congress before taking effect. Congressional inaction would constitute a veto of any important new regulation, no matter how uncontroversial it might be.

The predictable result is that the federal rulemaking process would grind to a halt. This legislation is nothing more than a backdoor way to block enforcement of existing legislation and future safeguards that powerful corporate interests do not want, the coalition maintains.

Next week, the House is expected to vote on the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) (H.R. 5). Even though it already takes many years for a new public protection to navigate the regulatory process, the bill would add more than 80 burdensome and time-consuming hurdles to that process — paralyzing agencies that already are struggling to operate under tight budgets.

In addition, the RAA would establish a default requirement that agencies adopt rules that are the least costly to industry, irrespective of the public benefits – overriding the Clean Air Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and dozens of other laws that make protecting the public and workers the highest priority. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 contained a similar requirement, which had the effect of blocking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating even a single toxic chemical for decades, until the law was updated in 2016.

“Regulators should be focused on protecting the public, not the profit margins of Wall Street banks and big polluters,” Weissman said. “If the House Republicans’ gambit succeeds, the results will be devastating.”

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