WASHINGTON -- A bill that would give the controlling party of either chamber of Congress veto power over any major new regulation passed the House of Representatives Wednesday.
The measure, dubbed the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny -- or REINS -- Act, would require Congress to sign off on any new rule estimated to cost more than $100 million. It passed 241 to 184, with a handful of Democrats crossing the aisle.
The REINS Act is only the latest of a slew of bills aimed at peeling back regulations, which House Republicans have pushed for in the name of cutting red tape and freeing up businesses. The GOP sees the regulations as overbearing rulemaking by unelected bureaucrats.
"Who do the regulators answer to? No one," said Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) in debate on the House floor.
"When the regulators go to work everyday, like most people go to work, their work assignment's a little different," Poe said. "In my opinion, they sit around a big oak table, sipping their lattes. They have out their iPads and their computers, and they decide, 'Who shall we regulate today?' And they write a regulation and send it out to the masses and make us deal with the cost to that."
Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), argued that if Congress can stop rules in their tracks, businesses will flourish.
"Poll after poll of small business owners, of medium-sized business owners -- they will show you and tell you that major regulations are holding back their expansion and the ability of them to hire more workers," Quayle said.
The bill would effectively give either chamber a veto on a regulation because leaders could simply not put it on the calendar for a vote, and the rule would expire after 70 congressional working days.
The Senate is unlikely to pass the measure.
Opponents of the bill argue that there is actually no evidence that regulation is a drag on the economy. Although REINS advocates frequently point to an estimate that regulations cost business more than $1 trillion a year, opponents point to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office that found the benefits of regulations often outweigh their costs by spurring economic activity.
Environmental advocates have been especially alarmed about the REINS Act because many environmental regulations fall into the "major" category, with their impact often exceeding $100 million in cost. They fear the measure is simply a way to let the Tea Party and special interests shoot down any new rule to protect the air and water.
The Act's opponents also note that it's ironic the GOP legislative attempt comes during an administration that has promoted fewer regulations that the previous one, and that the regulations Congress wants to block stem from laws passed by Congress itself.
Democrats cast the entire exercise as a partisan distraction from attempts to do something about the economy, including extending a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits that run out at the end of the year.
"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat -- please to put a dollar in the workers' hand," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. "I urge my colleagues to vote no on this REINS Act, and to get to work to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for the American people."
"Only then will we increase demand in our economy, create jobs, promote economic growth and put money into the pockets of 160 million Americans," Pelosi said. "Think of the difference that will make instead of putting forth legislation that has no impact on our economic growth is not in furtherance of job creation."Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.