Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Floor Statement: House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. on H.R. 1155, the ‘‘Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act of 2015"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“Mr.  Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 1155, the so-called SCRUB Act because it threatens to drown agencies in additional layers of red-tape and make it nearly impossible to establish any new rule, no matter how pressing, or to issue any guidance on existing rules. 

“Under this bill, an agency must treat every regulation the same, regardless of the urgency of a situation or the subject matter of the regulation.  H.R. 1155 achieves this result in several respects.

“First, the bill would establish a regulatory ‘cut-go’ process forcing agencies to prioritize between existing protections and responding to new threats to our health and safety.            

“This draconian, one-size-fits-all retrospective review process would obligate an agency to determine the cost of a new regulation and eliminate an existing regulation in order to pay for it.
“Without exception, the bill’s regulatory cut-go mandate would prohibit a regulatory agency from issuing any new rule or informal statement – even in the case of an emergency or imminent harm to public health – until the agency first offsets the costs of that new rule.

“By requiring agencies to adhere to such a rigid process regardless of the circumstances, the SCRUB Act will endanger public health and safety and unnecessarily delay federal rulemaking by years.

“Second, the SCRUB Act is a dangerous solution in search of a problem.
In principle, retrospective review of existing regulations is not a bad idea.  It is hard to argue against the notion that agencies should periodically assess whether the rules they have promulgated are as good as they can be or whether they are even necessary in light of changed circumstances.

However, each agency already conducts oversight through retrospective review of agency rules, narrowing the delegations of authority to agencies, controlling agency appropriations, and conducting oversight of agency activity.

“Moreover, Congress has the specific authority under the Congressional Review Act to disapprove any rule that an agency proposes. 

“Overlooking this array of options that already provide the necessary scalpel for smart regulatory cuts, the SCRUB Act's meat-cleaver approach is yet another dangerous and unbalanced attempt to derail agencies' missions to protect the public health and safety.  

“Finally, we must acknowledge that the real intent of this legislation is to hobble the ability of agencies to regulate.

“Proponents of this legislation rely on unsubstantiated rhetoric that regulations inhibit economic development. Supporters of so-called regulatory "reform" measures like the SCRUB Act claim that regulation imposes such costs on businesses that it stifles economic growth and job creation. 

“In support of this contention, they repeatedly cite a widely-debunked study by economists Mark and Nicole Crain that claims federal regulation imposes an annual cost of $1.75 trillion on business.  The Crain study, however, has been extensively criticized for exaggerating the costs of Federal rulemaking on small businesses.

“For example, the Center for Progressive Reform notes that the $1.75 trillion cumulative burden cited by the study fails to account for any benefits of regulation.   Moreover, the study's methodology is flawed with respect to how it calculated economic costs. The study, which relied on international public opinion polling by the World Bank on how friendly a particular country was to business interests, ignored actual data on costs imposed by Federal regulation in the United States. 

“In recognition of these concerns, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards - an alliance of more than 150 consumer, labor, research, faith, and other public interest groups - strongly oppose this legislation. In addition, the White House has released a Statement of Administration Policy opposing this legislation.

“The Administration observes, in particular, that the bill ‘would create needless regulatory and legal uncertainty; increase costs for businesses and State, local and tribal governments; and impede common-sense protections for the American public.’

“Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to join me in opposing H.R. 1155. I reserve the balance of my time.”
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