WASHINGTON -- The Republican-led House on Thursday passed legislation that would freeze major government regulations until the unemployment rate, now at 8.2 percent, drops to 6 percent or below.
The latest GOP attempt to rein in Obama administration's rulemaking, like previous anti-regulation bills, is virtually certain to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The vote was 245-172, with 13 Democrats voting for the GOP bill and two Republicans against it.
In familiar arguments, Republicans contended that unelected bureaucrats were costing businesses time and money and preventing hiring new workers. Democrats countered that consumer protection, health care, aid to veterans, food safety and workplace rules would suffer if Washington cannot regulate these areas.
Some earlier Republican bills were aimed at specific regulations, including environmental ones. But this latest legislation would affect proposed rules across the board and rival the scope a measure passed last December that would give Congress the power to approve any major regulation from the executive branch.
The administration, in threatening a veto, said in a statement that the bill would undermine critical public health and safety protections, introduce uncertainly in government decision-making and interfere with carrying out laws passed by Congress. The administration has promoted its own program to eliminate burdensome regulations, but Republicans say the effort is weak and they cite complaints from small business owners they hope to woo in the November elections.
During debate on the bill Wednesday, Rep. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, lamented the problems that Republicans have in the Senate with their anti-regulation bills. "I hope it has better luck than some of the other bills we've passed ... when it gets across the Capitol," he said.
In addition to the proposed freeze, the measure also would:
_Prevent lame-duck administrations from issuing economically significant regulations.
_Ensure that parties affected by new rules could intervene, before federal agencies sign on to court settlements that would require new regulations.
_Streamline issuance of federal construction permits, especially for energy projects that bill sponsors say are delayed by red tape.
The bill would apply to regulations likely to have an annual cost of $100,000 or more, or adversely affect the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, and public health and safety.
Despite the sweeping language, Issa said the freeze, if in force last year, would have affected only 66 of 3,000 rules. The chief sponsor of the bill, Arkansas Republican Tim Griffin, said the legislation would allow a president to get a waiver for any regulation affected by the freeze. But Congress would have to approve the request.
Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., attempted to personalize the debate with a story about the roofing business started by his father.
"He built his company in honesty and integrity and the government wasn't in the way," he said. He added that today, anyone trying to start a business would face a "complex maze of rules and regulations and licensers" that have "crushed the American dream."
Opponents strongly disagreed.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, who co-sponsored the financial system overhaul law that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the legislation would be devastating to the new agency as it crafts rules to stop unfair practices by financial institutions.
"I am glad we have a consumer bureau that stepped in to protect the Americans," Frank said. "It's not every American who's corrupt. It is too many in the financial area. We passed financial reform. I know some of the Republicans don't like it."