Wednesday, January 4, 2017

CONYERS House Floor Statement In Opposition To H.R. 21, The So-Called “Midnight Rules Relief Act"


I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 21, the so-called Rules Relief Act of 2017.”

This sweeping measure would empower Congress to undo virtually every regulation submitted to Congress since mid-June of last year through the end of 2016.

The bill accomplishes this end by authorizing Congress to disapprove these rules through a single joint resolution thereby depriving Members to consider the merits of each individual regulation.

H.R. 21 presents numerous concerns.

To begin with, this bill would provide special interests with yet another opportunity to block critical, life-saving regulations.

Long before regulations are submitted to Congress, agencies often take many years to ensure that these rules are carefully vetted through a deliberative process based on extensive analysis, public notice, and comment. 

As one recognized administrative law expert has observed, 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.”

Yet, H.R. 21 would effectively force Congress to rely on industry input when presented with an up-or-down vote on a long list of complicated and often highly technical rules.

David Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council warns that this would result in special interests descending on “Congress with even greater fervor than is currently the case.”

I am also concerned that H.R. 21 is based on the fundamentally flawed premise that rules finalized during the final year of a President’s term are somehow rushed or improperly vetted.

The nonpartisan Administrative Conference of the United States, for example, conducted an extensive study in 2012. 

It concluded 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.”

The Conference also reported that many of these rules involved purely routine matters initiated before the Presidential transition period or as the result of deadlines outside the agency’s control, such as year-end statutory or court-ordered deadlines.

Indeed, so-called midnight rules often take longer to promulgate 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 nearly 2.8 years to complete.

The Center for Progressive Reform likewise concludes that concerns about 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—the Congressional Review Act.

Lastly, as with the many other anti-regulatory bills we considered in the last congress, this legislation completely ignores the benefits of regulation and is premised on the unsubstantiated belief that regulations undermine employment or economic growth.

This also explains why H.R. 21 is opposed by a broad coalition of organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. 
As the Obama Administration stated in connection with its veto threat of an identical version of this bill considered last November, the legislation “would create tremendous regulatory uncertainty, potentially impose additional costs on businesses, and represent a step backwards for applying sound regulatory principles to protect public health, safety, the environment, and other critical aspects of society.”

If we care about clean water and air, if we care about the safety of the toys we give our children, if we care about the environment, then we must oppose this bill.

Accordingly, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in rejecting this legislation and I reserve the balance of my time. 


With so many other pressing issues for the Congress to act on, it is a disservice to the American people that we, as one of our first legislative actions in the 115th Congress, take up H.R. 21, a bill that has far-ranging consequences in the absence of anydeliberative process.
Even though just yesterday more than 50 new Members of the House were sworn in and even though there was not a single legislative hearing on this bill in the last Congress, the Majority has chosen to rush this bill literally on the second day of this new Congress.

And, as further insult to all Members, this bill is being considered under a closed rule, depriving our colleagues of any opportunity to offer amendments.

But, most importantly, this bill jeopardizes public health and safety because it will further empower special interests that prioritize profits over lives to derail regulations they just do not like. 

So, in closing, I must oppose H.R. 21, a bill that is utterly unnecessary, unwarranted, and ill-conceived.

I yield back balance of my time.  

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

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