Rep. Young: Want Congress to Assert Itself More? Pass the REINS Act

Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind.
Charles Dharapak/AP

My fellow conservatives in Indiana and beyond are rightfully frustrated by the out-of-control spending in Washington. But they are also increasingly concerned about Congress’ inability to assert itself against the costly and consistent regulatory overreach of the Obama administration.

The people of my state don’t understand why the legislative branch—the branch tasked by our Constitution with making laws—so often defers to the executive branch to write the rules when the Obama administration (or any administration for that matter) attempts to legislate by regulation or executive order.

That’s why I’ve introduced the REINS (Regulations from the Executive In Needs of Scrutiny) Act, to stop President Obama from issuing new costly, job‐killing regulations without Congressional approval. As the son of a small business owner, I know how regulatory overreach can stifle our economy and cost Americans jobs.

When Nancy Pelosi said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” many conservatives mistakenly thought she meant Congress hadn’t read the language in the Obamacare bill. But what she really meant was, “We left the bill intentionally vague so that the executive branch can fill in the details via regulation.”

Obamacare isn’t the only recent example where Congress drafted broad, but vague, legislation that left it to regulators to fill in the blanks. Dodd-Frank comes to mind. Cap and Trade wouldn’t have been much different (and despite it failing in Congress, it hasn’t stopped the EPA from trying to implement it anyway). As bad as the Obama administration is at trying to legislate without legislators, all too often Congress is responsible for handing them the “pen and phone.”

The REINS Act, which I’ve introduced with Sen. Rand Paul, mandates that any time the executive branch issues a rule or regulation with an economic impact of $100 million or more—it must come to Congress for an up-or-down vote before it can take effect.

Though the mechanism here isn’t complicated, the implications would be staggering. The REINS Act would force federal agencies to take a more comprehensive view of their work product to ensure cost-benefit analysis is done.  The coal-fired power plant regulations would likely have never been proposed, let alone overturned by the Supreme Court, if first required to pass Congress.

By making Congress ultimately responsible for the rules Americans must live by, the REINS Act would give the American people a louder voice in the regulatory process through their elected representatives. It also means that when unpopular regulations get issued, elected members of Congress could no longer point fingers at unelected bureaucrats; instead, Americans could hold Congress accountable at the ballot box.

But perhaps most importantly, the REINS Act removes any incentive Congress might have to punt on the details in the first place. There’s little political gain to drafting vague legislation when you know the specifics are coming back to your desk eventually.

There is much Congress must do to strengthen our economy. We need to simplify the tax code to reward Americans for working hard, investing, saving and allow families to keep more of their own money. We need a conservative welfare reform initiative that is focused on putting people back to work, and ensures taxpayer money is only spent on programs that have been proven to work. And we need to repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense health care reforms that keeps health decisions between patients and doctors. But we must also act now to rein in the regulatory mandates of the Obama administration and future administrations of either political party.

The House will have an opportunity to pass the REINS Act this week. This will be the third consecutive Congress that this legislation has passed the House. The last two times, Harry Reid killed it in the Senate. I’m hopeful with the new Republican majority at the other end of the Capitol, we can finally make this commonsense change to our regulatory system. If you agree that Congress should assert its Constitutional duty to legislate, call your Congressman and Senators today and urge them to support the REINS Act.


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