By Celine McNicholas, Economic Policy Institute
This week was the first week in which the Congressional Review Act could no longer be used to block regulations issued in the final months of the Obama administration. But congressional Republicans were undeterred, and continued to advance an anti-regulatory agenda that threatens workers’ health and safety, wages, and retirement security. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs approved the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), a sweeping measure that threatens all kinds of important worker protections. That same day, the administration delayed a rule that requires employers to electronically submit injury and illness data that they already record. And yesterday, the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing attacking the fiduciary rule, which requires that financial advisers act in their clients’ best interests when giving retirement advice.
The RAA, which was advanced by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, would fundamentally alter the regulatory process, giving corporate interests unprecedented power to interfere with and delay the regulatory process. The bill lets big business and special interests submit alternative regulatory proposals, and requires that agencies consider these proposals and adopt the rule that is least costly for corporations. By prioritizing industry profits over health, safety, and other public goods, the RAA is a direct threat to workers and the American people.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration delayed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule that requires employers electronically submit injury and illness data. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, many employers with more than 10 employees are required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. The rule simply requires that employers electronically submit this data to OSHA which would then publish some of the information on the agency’s website. In issuing the rule, OSHA stated that this information was valuable to workers, job seekers, and the general public and that it would encourage employers to improve workplace safety. This is the fifth worker protection the Trump administration has delayed and follows a petition filed by the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests requesting a delay of the rule. Lastly, on Friday, the HELP committee held a hearing at which Republicans attacked the fiduciary rule, which requires financial advisers to provide what most clients likely believe they are already receiving— advice about their retirement plans free from conflicts of interest. It is common practice for financial advisers to steer their clients towards investments that pay the adviser a commission but provide the client a lower rate of return. This conflicted advice leads to lower investment returns, causing real losses—an estimated $17 billion a year—for the retirement savers who are victimized. The rule, which the Trump administration has already delayed, would prohibit this. Every seven days the rule’s implementation is delayed costs retirement savers $431 million over the next 30 years.
The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are committed to advancing a deregulatory agenda that prioritizes corporate profits ahead of U.S. workers. The Perkins Project Policy Watch will continue to track the Trump administration and Congress and provide information on how their actions impact on our nation’s workers.