Baltimore Sun: Let Congress vote on major rules

Every year, more than 60 federal agencies issue thousands of new regulations covering every sector of the American economy. The Small Business Administration estimates the cumulative costs of these regulations at more than $1 trillion annually, or more than $10,000 per household per year. These regulations are legally binding, yet they emerge from unelected officials in regulatory agencies; Congress never has to vote to approve them.

Over the last few decades, on average, between 30 and 40 of the new final regulations issued each year have been considered “major,” with impacts of more than $100 million. In the past year-and-a-half, federal agencies have issued 94 major final rules (59 in 2009, and another 35 already this year). The costs of many of these are measured in the billions and even tens of billions of dollars.

For example, last year the Department of Energy issued costly regulations restricting certain kinds of light bulbs, as well as standards for clothes washers, while the Department of Interior issued rules on alternate energy uses of the Outer Continental Shelf. The Department of Transportation issued a $10 billion rule requiring railroads to use “positive train controls,” and another $1 billion rule requiring stronger car roofs (despite the DOT’s analysis indicating the benefits would not justify the increase in consumer prices). This year, the DOE added another rule setting standards for pool heaters and water heaters, while DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency issued a $60 billion regulation increasing auto fuel economy, and the Federal Aviation Administration issued a $7 billion rule to change aircraft equipage requirements. And the EPA issued rules to begin to regulate most of the economy to try to limit global warming.

Regardless of whether these rules are good or bad, there is no question they involve very significant costs for our economy, possibly slowing the recovery and hindering job creation.

Moreover, the Obama administration’s current “Regulatory Agenda” identifies almost 4,000 regulations under development, 191 of which involve more than $100 million each. The costs of these mandates sometimes dwarf the budgets of the regulatory agencies that produce them, yet these “off-budget” rules are not subject to the same scrutiny as on-budget spending. Congress had to vote to approve the nearly $13 billion used to fund the Department of Labor in 2009, for example, but did not vote with regard to any of the 10 major final rules the department issued in the last year and a half. Throughout our government, regulatory agencies cannot hire staff or spend money without approval from Congress, but they routinely issue regulations that impose huge costs without any congressional approval.

Our government was built on the dual principles of separation of powers — with “all legislative powers … vested in a Congress of the United States” — and checks and balances. Over the last century, Congress has delegated more and more legislative authority to the Executive Branch, but it need not give up accountability for these administrative laws.

A procedural change where Congress would have to vote to approve high-impact regulations could restore a system of checks and balances to federal regulation. Sixty-eight members of Congress have proposed legislation that would accomplish this, requiring congressional approval under expedited procedures before major regulations can go into effect.

Critics of the bill, known as the “REINS Act,” are concerned that Congress would not have enough time to vote on every major rule, and that the requirement would produce gridlock. However, over the last 18 months, Congress has found time to enact 210 new laws, including 58 votes to name Post Offices and other federal buildings. Surely a Congress that has time to vote on the names of 58 federal buildings could make the time to vote on 59 important federal regulations that have the force and effect of law.

Not only would this give Congress more accountability and control over the implementation of the legislative powers it delegates, but it would encourage fuller transparency and informed debate on these significant regulations that have the power of law.

Susan Dudley, former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush, is director of the Regulatory Affairs Center at The George Washington University. Jeff Rosen, former general counsel and senior policy advisor at the OMB, is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

KY Enquirer: Davis bill would reinin regulators

In recent years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cracked down on sewer overflows under the federal Clean Water Act.

The agency has ordered communities across the country to upgrade their sewer infrastructure in order to eliminate the overflows, which some say amounts to an unfunded mandate.

Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky plans to spend more than $1 billion over the next 20 years to fix the overflows, which will be passed on to customers in the form of higher sewer rates.

The EPA’s crackdown was never approved by Congress, however. It happened through regulatory changes.

The EPA isn’t the only federal agency to engage in the practice, which the Small Business Administration says costs taxpayers more than $1.1 trillion each year.

A bill introduced by Congressman Geoff Davis, R-Hebron, would change that.

The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would require Congressional approval for major regulatory changes, defined as those that would have an annual economic impact of $100 million or more.

“It’s not anti-regulation, but it’s about creating more targeted regulation,” Davis said. “It’s about bringing more oversight by Congress.”

He said between 80 and 85 major rules are approved each year. And while they are subject to a 60-day comment period before they take effect, Davis said objections are rarely given serious consideration.

The REINS Act would subject major rules to closer scrutiny by the House and Senate.

“The object is to give people control of their government back,” Davis said. “This is one thing we can do to restore accountability … It gives people, essentially, a yes-or-no button on these decisions that will affect their daily lives.”

The measure is the brainchild of Alexandria City Councilman Lloyd Rogers.

Rogers, 77, has long been a critic of EPA regulations. He fought against vehicle emissions testing as judge-executive during the early 1980s.

He also opposes the storm water surcharge (which critics call a “rain tax”) the sanitation district began levying in 2003 to help pay for storm water upgrades required by the EPA’s crackdown under the Clean Water Act.

“I just could not understand how a federal agency could do that,” Rogers said.

He thought Congress should have a say in such regulations, an idea he took to Davis last year.

“I thought it was a stunningly clear idea, just elegant in its simplicity,” Davis said.

His office drafted the REINS Act, and he filed the bill last October.

The measure has gotten an increasing amount of attention this summer, as House Republicans seek new ideas for a national policy agenda.

The REINS Act was endorsed last month by House Minority Leader John Boehner of West Chester, who’s poised to become Speaker if Republicans take control of the House in November.

It is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and the Northern Kentucky cities of Alexandria, Newport and Fort Wright.

And 70 members of Congress – all Republicans – have signed on as co-sponsors, including Boehner.

Davis said he’s confident the REINS Act will pass during the next Congress.

“This is not a partisan bill,” he said. “It’s a tool to restore oversight of the executive branch to the people. It’s giving a voice back to the people.”

House Republicans unveil jobs agenda

House Republicans unveiled a new job creation agenda Thursday that calls for lower tax rates, international trade agreements that spur the sale of American-made products and makes it tougher for the federal government to enact regulations on businesses.

House Republicans have spent the first months of the new session focusing largely on cutting spending: They struck a deal with Democrats to fund the government through the fiscal year that cut billions from the federal budget and passed a House resolution budget that would cut $4.4 trillion over then years. But now, Republicans say, is the time to emphasize the “growth” portion of the “cut and grow” agenda the party outlined last November in their “Pledge to America.”

“We have said all along there are two tracks,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday. “This is the other piece of the painting. The one side of the painting is about spending reductions and managing down the debt through expenditure reduction. The other is about growth.”

The initiative would drop the individual corporate and individual top tax rate 10 points to 25 percent, eliminate government regulation on industries that operate in the country, make it more difficult for the government to enact new regulations, initiate tax incentives for domestic energy production and end the double tax on American companies operating overseas.

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Maysville Ledger-Independent Endorses Geoff: The ready candidate

Even when he’s under the weather, as he was last week when he visited our office, Rep. Geoff Davis comes across as very well-informed on the important issues facing our nation — foreign policy, health care, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy. More than that, he knows and understands the issues facing those who call the Fourth District home — jobs, the economy, the environment, coal. For those reasons, we endorse Davis in his bid to retain his seat in Congress.

The northern Kentucky Republican and West Point graduate has put his mark on the district with constituent service that is second to none. He has offices throughout the district, including one in Maysville where residents come with a variety of problems Davis’ staff is ready to take on — from veterans issues to Social Security.

Davis is no stranger to the hardships many area residents are dealing with today as they see their paychecks getting squeezed tighter and tighter each week — during high school, he helped supplement his family’s income by working as a janitor and has dealt with the issues owners of small business face.

Despite being a member of what some have dubbed “the party of No,” Davis seems more than willing to sit down with those on the other side of the aisle and to come to a compromise without compromising his common sense approach and conservative values. He is a member of the Center Aisle Caucus, a group of Representatives who have a strong interest in promoting civility of Congress and bringing the two major parties together to work toward solving problems.

Locally, Davis has directed funds to our area to improve fire protection, house the homeless and improve our roads and schools, all to boost our quality of life while escaping the taint of projects identified as earmarks.

On the health care front, Davis opposed the health care bill passed by Congress earlier this year but is not without his own ideas of how to improve health care to Kentuckians, including allowing the purchase of health care insurance across state lines and tart reform.

Militarily, we suspect there are few who bring superior credentials to Washington. Davis has served as an Army Ranger and taught at the prestigious U.S. War College in Carlisle, Pa He is perhaps the most knowledgeable person in Kentucky when it comes to both military tactics and the political situation in the Middle East.

As for Davis’ opponent, Democrat John Waltz, we cannot comment. A request made for an interview with The Ledger Independent’s editorial board a few weeks ago was not returned.

No matter who takes control of Congress in January, Davis seems ready and willing to reach his hand across the aisle to get our economy moving, to create jobs and move our country forward. That’s the kind of voice and attitude we need in Washington today.

We urge voters in the Fourth District to visit the polls on Nov. 2 and return Geoff Davis to Congress as our U.S. Representative.

KY Enquirer endorses Geoff

Rep. Geoff Davis doesn’t pull any punches when he talks. He knows his stuff – from military strategy to health care – and he takes his role seriously.
The knowledge and experience that the Hebron Republican brings to the table are a big part of the reason we are endorsing him for a fourth term as representative of Kentucky’s 4th District in the U.S. House.

Davis’ passion is squared around his experience as an Army Ranger and businessman; talking with him about Iraq and Afghanistan feels a lot like you’d expect if sitting in a Pentagon strategy room. His understanding of the wars is deep and his knowledge of military operations comes first-hand. Stemming from his West Point and service days, Davis is able to deftly take in the military brass’ assessment of conditions on the ground, and for many members of that military brass, he could also give you a story or two about their time in service together or at West Point.

But it’s that breadth of military and foreign service knowledge that serves Congress so well. When Davis says that “the tools of national security are not aligned,” and that “Afghanistan is severely under-resourced,” you know it’s not coming from a typical politician. Davis knows what he’s talking about, and Congress needs that sort of experience and voice in its body.
It wouldn’t be hard to imagine him serving as secretary of defense in another time and under another leadership.

But military matters are not Davis’ only strength.

Davis is still a strong opponent of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which he voted against and calls unconstitutional, and supports a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. In talking with Davis at his editorial board endorsement meeting, the member of the Center Aisle caucus seems willing to work with anyone, on either side of the aisle, who wants to make reduced spending and a reasonable federal budget a top priority. It’s a stand that echoes strongly with voters this year who seem fed up with runaway Washington spending.

Health care is another area where Davis’ voice might be well-received, both in Congress and by voters. His support for allowing Americans to buy health insurance across state lines and reducing the need for “defensive medicine” would be welcomed by many voters who do not agree with the health care bill in its present form. Should the power in Congress switch after the election, as many predict, Davis would be a reasonable voice in the debate.

But as good as Davis is at serving Americans on the whole well in Congress regarding national matters like health care, the budget and the military, he also has a strong focus on what we need back here in Kentucky. One example is Davis’ continued work toward gaining federal highway dollars to replace the Brent Spence bridge, a necessity for our region. Davis has worked with both Rep. Steve Driehaus, a Democrat, and former Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican, to secure those dollars, and will be able to seamlessly continue working on it with whoever wins the seat in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District.

Davis knows his constituency well, and his conservative values and common-sense approach to issues makes him a good fit to represent this diverse district.

Voters this year also have a good challenger in Florence Democrat John Waltz, who seems knowledgeable about the issues and sincere in his commitment. However, Waltz’s suggestion that Davis’ office lacks good constituent services and claims that the office would not assist Waltz in receiving his Veterans Affairs benefits is seriously called into question considering Waltz’s unwillingness to allow Davis to release his office’s constituent file on Waltz. If Waltz’s treatment by Davis’ office were so egregious, he should be happy to make the file public. It seems unlikely that one man who served his country would be unwilling to help another.

And although his opponent would disagree, Davis has made constituent service a priority by making his office accessible to all residents – he estimates that most are no more than 30 minutes from one of his satellite offices.

Waltz clearly has a passion for serving other veterans and has done so well throughout Kentucky.

We encourage him to continue that service for the so many who need that advocacy.