WASHINGTON – Today, during debate on the House Floor of H.R. 185, the “Regulatory Accountability Act,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. urged his colleagues to vote against the measure. Rep. Conyers delivered the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:
John Conyers, Jr.
“Mr. Speaker, I strongly oppose H.R. 185, the so-called “Regulatory Accountability Act.”
“Under the guise of attempting to improve the regulatory process, H.R. 185 will, in truth, undermine that process. It invites increased industry intervention and imposes more than 60 new analytical requirements that could add years to the regulatory process.
“As a result, H.R. 185 would seriously hamper the ability of government agencies to safeguard public health and safety, as well as environmental protections, workplace safety, and consumer financial protections.
“My greatest concern is that H.R. 185 will undermine the public health, safety, and well-being of Americans.
“The ways in which it does this are almost too numerous to list here, so I will just mention a few.
“First, H.R. 185 would override critical laws that prohibit agencies from considering costs when public health and safety are at stake - including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
“This means that agency officials will now be required to balance the costs of an air pollution standard with the costs of the anticipated deaths and illnesses that will result in the absence of such regulations.
“At a hearing on an earlier version of this bill in the 112th Congress, our witness testified that if this measure were in effect in the 1970's, the government “almost certainly would not have required the removal of most lead from gasoline until perhaps decades later.”
“This explains why numerous respected academics, consumer organizations, public interest groups, and environmental organizations strongly oppose this dangerous legislation.
“For example, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards – consisting of more than 70 national public interest, labor, consumer, and environmental organizations – says the bill will“grind to a halt the rulemaking process at the core of implementing the nation’s public health, workplace safety, and environmental standards.”
“The Natural Resources Defense Council adds that the practical impact of H.R. 185 ‘would be to make it difficult if not impossible to put in place any new safeguards for the public, no matter what the issue.’
“And, the Consumer Federation of America states that H.R. 185 ‘would handcuff all federal agencies in their efforts to protect consumers’ and it ‘would override important bipartisan laws that have been in effect for years, as well as more recently enacted laws to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive financial services, unsafe food and unsafe consumer products.’
“Further, the AFL-CIO warns that the bill’s procedural and analytical requirements add years to the regulatory process, delaying the development of major workplace safety rules and will ‘cost workers their lives.’
“And, as more than 80 highly respected administrative law academics and practitioners observe, the bill’s many ill-defined new procedural and analytical requirements will engender ‘20 or 30 years of litigation before its requirements are clearly understood.’
“My second concern is that this legislation would give well-funded business interests the opportunity to exert even greater influence over the rulemaking process and agencies.
“We already know that the ability of corporate and business interests to influence agency rulemaking far exceeds that by groups representing the public.
“But rather than leveling the playing field, H.R. 185 will further tip the balance in favor of business interests by giving them multiple opportunities to intervene in the rulemaking process, including through less deferential judicial review.
“Finally, H.R. 185 is based on the faulty premise that regulations result in economically stifling costs, kill jobs, and promote uncertainty.
“While supporters of H.R. 185 will undoubtedly cite a study claiming the cost of regulations exceed $1.8 trillion, the Congressional Research Service, Center for Progressive Reform, and the Economic Policy Institute found that a prior iteration of this study was based on incomplete and irrelevant data.
“In fact, the Majority’s own witness at a hearing on nearly identical legislation clearly debunked this argument. Christopher DeMuth, who appeared on behalf of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, testified that the employment effects of regulation ‘are indeterminate.’
“The other central argument put forth by proponents of this legislation – that regulatory uncertainty hurts businesses – has similarly been debunked.
“Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy analyst in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations observes:
‘[R]egulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.’
“Not surprisingly, the Administration issued a strong veto threat stating that the bill ‘would impose unprecedented and unnecessary procedural requirements on agencies that would prevent them from efficiently performing their statutory responsibilities.’
“Rather than heeding these serious concerns, the supporters of H.R. 185 simply want to push forward without any hearings, markups, or deliberative process in this Congress with a bill that has absolutely no political viability.
“I urge my colleagues to oppose this dangerous legislation and I reserve the balance of my time.”
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