Getting Bureaucracy Off Your Back

Feb 10, 2017 Issues: Agriculture, Energy, Second Amendment

A common request I receive from Nebraskans is for help getting bureaucracy off their backs. Especially over the past eight years, federal agencies have far too often violated the separation of powers and legislated through red tape.

A study by the American Action Forum found the cost to our economy of the Obama administration’s midnight regulations, or regulations passed after the election of President Trump, totaled $157 billion. With 99 regulations issued in December alone, the Obama administration’s monthly regulatory churn more than doubled in its final weeks.

The House has spent the first few weeks of the new Congress focused on undoing this regulatory damage. We are working rule by rule to get rid of as many onerous, job-killing regulations as possible. President Trump has joined us in this effort, requiring agencies to kill two major regulations for every new one implemented.

An important tool Congress can use to reduce regulatory burdens is called the Congressional Review Act, or CRA. In order to maintain Congress’s constitutional role in setting federal law, the CRA provides a streamlined process, including expedited Senate consideration, to overturn newly finalized rules by the executive branch. A CRA resolution only requires 51 votes to pass in the Senate rather than the usual 60.   

When the Obama administration finalized its Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS, in 2015, I introduced a resolution to block it using the CRA. The Senate version of my resolution passed both chambers but was vetoed by President Obama, along with all the other CRA bills passed by the last Congress. Thankfully, President Trump has expressed his desire to sign these CRA resolutions when they reach his desk.

Many of the Obama administration’s midnight rules targeted domestic energy production. The Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Rule has been estimated to cost the industry anywhere from $110 million to more than $1 billion per year while providing little environmental benefit. Despite rapid growth in oil and natural gas production, methane emissions have already declined significantly in recent decades. The Stream Protection Rule, a duplicative regulation with a new flowery name, would cost tens of thousands of mining jobs and put up to 64 percent of U.S. coal reserves off limits.  

The House has used the CRA to block both of these damaging regulations. To achieve U.S. energy independence, we should be embracing all forms of American energy rather than strangling them with the heavy hand of the federal government.  

Another midnight regulation by the Obama administration threatened the constitutional rights of millions of Americans. In December, the Social Security Administration finalized a rule to automatically add Social Security beneficiaries with representative payees to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Approximately 4.2 million Americans have representative payees, and as the Ways and Means Committee explored in a recent hearing, there are numerous concerns about how beneficiaries end up on the representative payee rolls in the first place.

Receiving help to manage one’s Social Security benefits does not correlate with the capacity to own or judiciously use firearms. However, under this rule, these law-abiding Americans would be reported to the NICS list with no judicial review and forced to go through an appeals process to be removed. The House used the CRA to block this rule and protect Americans’ Second Amendment and due process rights.

We have many more CRA bills to work through in the coming weeks, as the Obama administration’s regulatory labyrinth will take time to dismantle. To strengthen our economy and ensure greater opportunity for Americans, cutting regulations must remain a top priority.