Republicans and Corporations Take Aim for Government Agencies
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Republicans and Corporations Take Aim for Government Agencies

120 Corporate Lobbyists Have Lined Up Behind the Senate’s ‘Regulatory Accountability’ Bill 

The Senate is considering the innocuous-sounding Regulatory Accountability Act which Trump supporters could use to undermine safety for children, veterans and others in our country. The House passed a version of the bill in January.

The bill “would impose needlessly convoluted, burdensome requirements that we know have failed in the past,” Martha Roberts of the Environmental Defense Fund wrote in The Regulatory Review. The bill would so gum up the regulatory process that we’d find ourselves back in the days when the EPA could spend almost 10 years studying the dangers of asbestos and still not be able to craft a regulation that would stand up to court challenges.

The Center for Responsive Politics in July called the act the sixth most-lobbied bill in the current Congress with at least 109 organizations registered to lobby on it. A few weeks later, that number had bumped up to 120.

The Senate bill, S. 951, is sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The House version, H.R. 5, is sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)

The Environmental Working Group found Portman’s 2016 campaign received $3.3 million, nearly half of his campaign donations that year, from PACs, trade organizations and individuals who want laxer regulation.

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The Environmental Working Group can be reached at 202-667-6982.

The act would require that independent regulatory agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Reserve submit a cost-benefit analysis for major rules to a White House agency  some call the place where “regulations go to die.”

The agency, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is chronically underfunded and understaffed. Former law professor Neomi Rao heads the agency.

Rao founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University.

Rao has written that the president should be able to fire the heads of independent regulatory agencies who currently have “for cause” protections against being fired for political reasons.

The act would also require public hearings for major or high-impact rules. The peanut butter industry used a five-month regulatory hearing to help delay rules on peanut butter for more than a decade, including a lawsuit that stopped just shy of the Supreme Court.

“Why did the regulatory definition of peanut butter create such a storm?” then-President Jimmy Carter asked in 1979.

The bill also has a communications provision that could muzzle agencies during the rulemaking process.

“Any deviation from these nitpicky procedures … could prompt a court to toss out the promulgated regulation, regardless of the threat to the public as result of the regulation’s demise,” the Environmental Defense Fund’s Roberts wrote.

In 1989, the EPA tried to ban products containing asbestos after the agency spent almost a decade looking at the health effects, various policy options and economic implications and compiling more than 45,000 pages of supporting materials.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the agency “failed to muster substantial evidence” for its rule under our country’s laws for writing regulations.

More than 50 countries, including all the countries in the European Union, now ban asbestos. The United States still doesn’t.

August 15, 2017