Rachel Bovard: Congress Created a ‘Regulatory Morass’ by Ceding too Much Authority to Bureaucrats

The Capitol is seen just before sunset as lawmakers prepare to return to work following the holiday break, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Legislation repealing President Barack Obama's health care law comes to the forefront when the House reconvenes, marking a sharply partisan start to a congressional year in which legislating …
AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Heritage Foundation Director of Policy Services Rachel Bovard talked about references to the budget, tax cuts, and government debt in President Trump’s address to Congress on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily.

Bovard said she thought Trump did “exactly what he needed to do” in the speech.

“I think he needed to come to Congress and give them sort of a spine-stiffening exercise, and I think that’s exactly what we saw,” she explained, saying Trump effectively told his party’s caucus: “Look, you need to fulfill these priorities that not only I ran on — but hey Republicans, you ran on and won.” Bovard went on:

I think he really got at that sort of fiscal responsibility message through pushing for the repeal of Obamacare, which is going to spend $2 trillion over the next ten years. I think he really focused on it when he said look, my budget’s going to come to Congress on March 16th, get ready. We’re going to rebuild the military, and we’re going to pay for it with responsible cuts to duplicative programs and inefficient federal spending. I think that’s something that Congress has been waiting to hear, and I think Trump hopes that Republicans will engage at this point.

SiriusXM host Alex Marlow pointed out some contradictions in Trump’s address, such as the contrast between the president’s agenda to cut back the administrative state, versus his trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. Bovard replied:

It’s known as the devil in the details. It’s hard to say, for a guy who’s never been a politician before, it’s hard to assign a sort of overarching narrative when you don’t have a lot of evidence. I do think sort of his broad governing principle seems to be a government that works best, meaning efficient. A lot of times, I think that means in some cases smaller government, so when you’re talking about the regulating agencies, I think he sees a lot of waste, a lot of duplication, a lot of the heavy hand of government. But I think also, when we’re talking about infrastructure, our government does indeed have Constitutional aspects which include infrastructure, provided for American citizens efficiently.

“It’s only Day 40, I think, in the first 100 days now,” she pointed out. “It’s difficult to assign this big, broad narrative to what Trump’s presidency will be, but based on what we’ve seen and what he’s said so far, I really do think he’s pushing for efficiency. Sometimes that means smaller government, and sometimes it just means government acting better where it already acts.”

Marlow returned to Trump’s infrastructure plan, and how it will supposedly be covered by a mixture of government and private funds. “How do you do that? How do you enforce something like that at that scale?” he asked.

Bovard replied:

I think what Trump’s referring to there is something called the public-private partnership. This sort of came to a vote under the second Bush administration, and it really seeks to leverage federal dollars and private dollars to get a contract done, essentially. There’s been a lot of success in these public-private partnerships. Again, going back to this idea of efficiency, they are a really efficient way to spend federal dollars.

So I think he’s talking about doing that at the state and local levels. That would require state and local governments to take a little bit more responsibility over their infrastructure. I also think if he’s going to do some infrastructure spending, if he’s going to do it correctly, a lot of that needs to come from some of the regulatory reforms that he’s pushing. As anyone who has tried to deal with infrastructure projects at the local level knows, it’s tied up in a regulatory morass for years sometimes, at the cost of millions of dollars.

”And so I think these are areas where Trump can implement his agenda for an infrastructure bill, but without busting the budget, without making substantial reforms along the way,” Bovard said.

She said it would be up to Congress to decide what to do, after Trump submits his budget on the 16th.

“They have a government funding deadline coming up in April, and then a debt ceiling following that this summer,” she noted. “I think they’re going to have to do some serious calculating in terms of how they’re going to deal with these crises, because you’ve seen by the past several years Congress governed by crisis, and right now they’re setting themselves up to do just that.”

“Should they get through those two deadlines, the appropriations season is where Congress will have the real say, and President Trump will get the answer he’s looking for, or not looking for, in terms of what Congress decides to fund,” she predicted.

Marlow highlighted President Trump’s idea, repeated again during Tuesday night’s address, that for each new regulation two must be taken away. Bovard said:

I think this could be a great thing. The regulatory state has grown to an extraordinary degree, especially over the last 20 years. A lot of that has to do with Congress ceding away its authority. Congress wants to get around having to actually write the messy details of these laws, so they give the agencies the authority to do it. But in doing so, they transfer some of their Constitutional governing authority to unelected bureaucrats. What has come out of that is a situation where you have unelected bureaucrats enforcing completely arbitrary laws on individual citizens.

One regulation in particular that we saw President Trump take aim at yesterday was the Waters of the United States regulation, and that regulation has fined landowners $75,000 a day for not complying with the idea of a ‘wetland’ – which the EPA defines as, in some cases, 120 miles away from the nearest navigable water.

“These regulations have just grown into this thicket of arbitrary, burdensome, and sort of un-Constitutional means of invading people’s private lives,” Bovard charged. “I think this could be one of Trump’s key legacies, in terms of unwinding a lot of this regulatory morass that’s grown up over the last couple of years.”

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.