Addressing the Regulatory Cliff
All eyes are now focused on negotiations to resolve the fiscal cliff, which if left unaddressed will result in arbitrary spending cuts and tax rate increases for all earners at the beginning of next year. Arbitrary cuts combined with new increases in tax rates would undermine economic growth and likely send our economy back into recession.
While Congress and the President work through the details of the fiscal cliff, the American people also face the possibility of a regulatory cliff next year due to the Administration’s politically advantageous decision to delay many costly rules until 2013. These rules will create new regulatory burdens which could cause further harm to our economy in the next year and beyond.
For example, in the past few weeks alone, three new regulations for the health care law were proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. These new rules add to more than 13,000 pages of regulations already imposed by the law, which will result in an estimated 79 million hours of compliance. New health care mandates not only will cost businesses billions of dollars per year in compliance and lost productivity, but also will make quality health care coverage more expensive and less accessible.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations are another major concern for our economy in the coming year. Unfortunately the EPA is not required to consider the economic impact of rules it promulgates, even if there is concern health and living conditions would actually worsen if businesses and individuals are forced into costly compliance. While many regulations were put on hold because of public outcry over their potential damage to the economy, with the November elections behind us, the agency may choose to pursue these rules again.
As is the case with the so called “Ozone Rule,” which was delayed in September 2011. This proposed regulation would seek to further limit emissions from cars, power plants and manufacturers at an estimated cost of more than $90 billion a year. After considerable public opposition, the President asked the EPA to put the rule on hold and to revisit the issue in 2013.
The EPA’s regulatory agenda does not end with the Ozone Rule. Since the President’s reelection the administration is now reconsidering regulating greenhouse gas emissions. This de facto tax dramatically would increase the costs of gasoline and electricity and would disproportionately hurt small operations. I recently signed a House Resolution disapproving of any attempt to establish a carbon tax, and I am a cosponsor of legislation which would prohibit the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases to address climate change. I also voted in favor of legislation to require an analysis and report on the impact of EPA regulations on employment, energy prices, and economic competitiveness, which passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.
There are also more than 130 unfinished rules under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial laws, most of which could be finalized in 2013. Many of these and other regulations could have a significant impact to the economy, and yet Congress will not have a chance to review these proposals before they are enforced on American families and small businesses.
To address the regulatory cliff and restore congressional oversight and accountability for the regulatory process, I support the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This commonsense legislation would require Congressional approval of any new regulation with an annual economic impact of more than $100 million, before it can be enforced on the American people.
Given the current dynamics of Congress, it is unlikely the REINS Act will be signed into law in time to address the flood of new regulations in 2013. However, unless Congress takes responsibility for the regulatory process, the President and executive branch agencies will be free to enact major, burdensome regulations. To restore certainty and reduce barriers to growth, both the fiscal cliff and the regulatory cliff must be addressed.