Chairman Goodlatte: Federal bureaucrats are continuously creating new and more complicated and costly burdens on hardworking Americans in the form of unnecessarily-burdensome regulations. Clearly, some regulation is necessary to protect public safety, set general rules of the road, and accomplish other important goals.
However, despite the fact that these goals can often be accomplished with relatively simple guidance, Washington bureaucrats seem more determined than ever to create the most complicated puzzles they can imagine, regardless of the compliance costs for small businesses or the new and innovative products entrepreneurs are forced to shelve in order to comply with these overly-complicated regulations.
Bureaucrats also don’t seem to care that American families face higher prices for goods and have fewer job opportunities when employers are unnecessarily forced to factor the wasteful costs of complying with overly-burdensome regulations into their bottom lines.
That is why, at the very beginning of the 115th Congress, we are prioritizing legislation to remove unnecessary regulatory burdens. Doing so is one of the fundamental steps we can take to make America more competitive again and put more Americans back to work again.
Today, our specific focus is on reforming regulations that are hastily cobbled together in the waning weeks and months of an outgoing administration. These regulations are particularly susceptible to abuse and thus have an even greater potential to undermine job opportunities, wages and American competitiveness.
As the Obama Administration rushes to a close, Americans’ freedom and prosperity is increasingly threatened by one of the most abusive features of modern bureaucracy—“Midnight Regulation.”
“Midnight regulation” is one of the most vexing problems in Washington’s overreaching regulatory system. Administration after administration, there is a spike in rulemaking activity during the last year of a president’s term—particularly between Election Day and Inauguration Day, but even in the months before then.
These successive waves of midnight regulation present deeply troubling issues. First and foremost, because outgoing administrations are no longer accountable to the voters, they are much more prone to issue midnight regulations that fly in the face of the electoral mandate the voters just gave the new, incoming administration.
Waves of midnight rules can also be very hard for Congress or a new administration to check adequately. As a new Congress and president begin their terms, both understandably must be focused on implementing the new priorities within the mandates the voters have given them. That doesn’t always leave time to focus on cleaning up all of the last acts of the departing administration.
In addition, the Congressional Review Act currently allows Congress to disapprove of regulations—including midnight regulations—only one at a time. A wave of midnight regulations can easily overwhelm Congress’ ability to use one-rule-at-a-time resolutions as an effective check.
Finally, it is well-documented that the rush by outgoing administrations to impose midnight rules before the clock strikes twelve leads to more poorly analyzed rules with lower quality and lower benefits.
The Obama Administration has imposed more runaway regulation than any other in memory, and its midnight rulemaking period is no exception. When the House considered this legislation in the wake of last November’s election, the Administration had issued or planned to issue at least 180 midnight rules within the scope of this bill, including multiple billion-dollar rules and more than 20 major rules imposing $100 million or more in costs per year.
In the intervening weeks, those figures have rapidly ballooned to 226 midnight rules issued or planned. During just the week of December 12th, the Administration issued 18 midnight regulations, imposing over $2 billion in new costs.
But, this is not a partisan issue. Administrations of both parties have issued midnight rules in the past.
The Judiciary Committee has been searching for an effective solution to this problem for some time, and I applaud our colleague Mr. Issa for offering the “Midnight Rules Relief Act” to respond to the need. This bill offers a simple and powerful means to stop the problem of abusive midnight rules—allowing Congress to disapprove of any and all midnight regulations in one fell swoop, by one, en bloc disapproval resolution under the Congressional Review Act.
Any outgoing administration understanding that it has this “Sword of Damocles” hanging over its head will surely hesitate much more before abusing midnight rules. Further, once enabled to dispatch of all improper midnight rules with one, simple resolution, Congress and succeeding administrations would be free to focus more of their energies on the voters’ new priorities, rather than the mess left by midnight rules.
The relief offered by the bill, moreover, is highly flexible. No set number of regulations would have to be covered by a resolution. No categories of regulation would have to be included in or excluded from a resolution. On the contrary, any midnight rule disapproval resolution could be sweeping or narrow, depending on how many rules merited inclusion.
Finally, the Midnight Rules Relief Act offers a solution that is not intrusive upon legitimate Executive Branch authority. An outgoing administration remains free to conduct necessary rulemaking activity up to the stroke of midnight on Inauguration Day.
It then falls to Congress to respond swiftly and surgically to the results, to accept the good and excise the bad.
This is truly a better way to govern. That is why the reform embodied in this bill is featured in Speaker Ryan’s “Better Way” agenda.
I thank Mr. Issa for his work on this important legislation.
I urge all of my colleagues to support the bill and reserve the balance of my time.
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