Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers Jr. for the Markup of H.R. 5982, the “Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2016”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 5982, the “Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2016,” is a sweeping measure that would enable Congress to disapprove en masse potentially every rule submitted under the Congressional Review Act during the final 60 legislative days of a session.

Were this bill in effect, every regulation submitted to Congress since May 16, 2016 through the end of this year could be disapproved by a subsequent Congress in a joint resolution without allowing Members to consider the merits of individual regulations.

H.R. 5982 presents numerous concerns.

To begin with, H.R. 5982 would provide special interests with yet another opportunity block critical, life-saving regulations.

Prior to submitting rules to Congress, agencies typically take several years to ensure that rules are carefully vetted. Indeed, much of modern rulemaking involves a “very detailed analysis of legal, factual, and policy issues, many of them highly technical. This work is better suited to the subject matter specialists in the respective agencies,” as administrative law expert Professor Ron Levin has previously testified.

Faced with this complexity, H.R. 5982 would result in Congress predictably relying on industry input when presented with an up-or-down vote on a long list of complicated, technical rules.
The prospect of industry influence is particularly concerning in light of the potentially unlimited regulatory challenges that the bill would establish.

As David Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council has previously noted in opposition to another anti-regulatory bill, special interests would “descend on Congress with even greater fervor than is currently the case to pressure Members to take their side on individual regulations.”

I am also concerned that H.R. 5982 is based on a fundamentally flawed premise, namely, that rules finalized during the final year of a President’s term are somehow rushed or improperly vetted.

There is also little evidence such rules warrant heightened scrutiny.

In 2012, the nonpartisan Administrative Conference of the United States found that “a dispassionate look at midnight rules issued by past administrations of both political parties reveals that most were under active consideration long before the November election,” while many of these rules involved routine matters or “finishing tasks that were initiated before the Presidential transition period or the result of deadlines outside the agency’s control (such as year-end statutory or court-ordered deadlines).”

So, like other anti-regulatory measures that our Committee has considered this Congress, there is no problem that requires resolution. 

Indeed, so-called midnight rules may actually take longer to adopt than other rules.

For example, Public Citizen reports that rules adopted during a presidential transition period were typically proposed 3.6 years prior to their adoption, while other rules adopted in non-transition periods took 2.8 years to complete. The Center for Progressive Reform has likewise observed that concerns surrounding midnight rulemaking are overstated, stating that “there simply is no reason to believe that a rule released at the end of an administration is worse than those that are released at any other point.”

Perhaps this is because Congress already has the tools to vacate an unreasonable rule under current law.

Lastly, as with other anti-regulatory bills proposed by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, this legislation completely ignores the benefits of regulation, which often exceed costs by many multiples, and is premised on the misguided belief that regulations undermine employment or economic growth.

Accordingly, I oppose this legislation and yield back the balance of my time.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

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