As you are preparing to gather around the Thanksgiving table, the Republican majority in Congress is rushing to push through legislation that will undermine the continued health and safety of the loved ones seated next to you. Over the next two weeks they will bring three bills to the House floor that will halt regulation as we know it, making it more difficult to protect public health and safety. Nobody likes red tape and everyone can agree that there are areas where our regulations could be streamlined. However, these bills go much further and will make it virtually impossible to enact new regulations or fine-tune existing ones. Indeed, under these bills it would even be harder to get rid of burdensome regulation.
Consider H.R. 3010, the "Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011," the latest salvo in conservatives' war against safeguards provided by regulations. If enacted, H.R. 3010 would effectively halt agency rulemaking, which threatens the government's ability to protect the American people from a wide range of health and safety harms. H.R. 3010 will result in "paralysis by analysis" by imposing numerous unnecessary analytical requirements on agencies before they even start the rulemaking process. This bill will arrest the rulemaking process and slow down the implementation of critical regulations that ensure our air and water is clean, and our consumer products are safe.
But that is not the only bill being crammed into the remaining few days of the congressional session. H.R. 10, The "REINS Act," would adversely impact how necessary and beneficial rules are promulgated by imposing a mandate requiring all new major regulations to be affirmatively approved by both Houses of Congress and signed by the president within 70 days before they can take effect. By requiring congressional approval and by giving Congress too little time to act, the REINS Act will effectively prevent major rules, including those related to public safety, from ever being implemented.
Rounding out the trio of public safety killing legislation is H.R. 527, the "Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011." Under current law, rulemaking agencies must make an analysis for every new rule that would have significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, such as small businesses. Among other things, this bill repeals the authority of an agency to waive or delay this analysis in response to an emergency that makes compliance or timely compliance impracticable.
So if there is an epidemic of E. coli or listeria infection caused by some item in our nation's food distribution network, or if there is an imminent environmental disaster that could be addressed systemically through regulation, this bill says "Don't worry. Don't rush."
My conservative colleagues argue that this legislation is necessary because too much regulation is responsible for our nation's current economic difficulties. They must be suffering from some collective form of amnesia. It was not too much regulation of Wall Street that led to the near collapse of the worldwide marketplace. It was not too much regulation that caused the BP oil spill. And, it was not too much regulation that allowed mortgage brokers, servicers, bankers and others to engage in predatory lending and falsify foreclosure documents in court proceedings.
Regulation has had no discernable impact on our economy compared with the devastating impact that the lack of demand has had. As a July Wall Street Journal survey of business economists found, "The main reason U.S. companies are reluctant to step up hiring is scant demand, rather than uncertainty over government policies." Even the business community recognizes that the biggest problem it faces is lack of demand. The most recent National Federation of Independent Business survey of its members likewise shows that business owners believe that poor sales -- not regulation -- are the biggest problem.
The focus of this debate, rather, should be on the fact that regulations are really about job creation. Historically, American-made goods have been sought the world over because of their high quality and safety standards. But the United States will lose this competitive advantage if we continue toward lowering our regulatory standards.
The solution to the recession is fairly straightforward. We must increase demand for American goods, create jobs and resolve the home foreclosure crisis. If we continue this regulatory race to the bottom, American manufacturers will be less competitive, demand will further weaken, and fewer -- not more -- jobs will be created. These bills provide yet another opportunity for big business to recklessly cut corners on public health and safety in the name of increasing big profits without creating a single new job.
The safety standards for American goods are so high, and our products are so consistently safe that it is no surprise we often take for granted the regulations that ensure their quality. So as you sit down to a nice meal consisting of food put through a thorough inspection process with loved ones who traveled safely on planes, trains and automobiles subject to rigorous safety standards, remember: Regulations don't kill jobs, they save lives. And that there are plans underway in Washington to undermine the regulatory process that guarantees the health and safety of millions of Americans.
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