Saturday, January 15, 2011

Best Proposal You've Probably Never Heard Of

We've all heard the seemingly-endless acronyms Democrats have used to cover up their schemes. The most recent was the DREAM Act, which went down to defeat when Republicans couldn't figure out how to make the letters stand for "nightmare." Well, here's one from the right that you might like--the REINS Act. The letters stand for "Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny." It's designed to rein in the massive power-shift from the elected branches to the federal bureaucracy.

Introduced as HR 3765 in the House and S 3826 in the Senate, the bill went nowhere. Our fabulous bipartisan Democrat-controlled Congress wouldn't even vote the bill out for discussion. However, with the takeover of the House and the shaky Democrat majority in the Senate, the bill will undoubtedly be introduced again. The Tea Party supported candidates who knew that the growth of the federal bureaucracy was a serious danger to representative democracy. Conservatives have been criticizing the growth for about seventy years.

The biggest gripe is that more and more extremely important positions are being filled by bureaucrats harboring a highly leftist agenda without having to be confirmed by the Senate. We have more czars today than the Russian Empire had in its entire history. Equally important is the fact that these czars (confirmed or not) are passing regulations without any control from Congress or the White House. The czars have little oversight and zero political accountability. The best recent example is the EPA's highjacking of the Clean Air Act when the left decided Congress was not acting quickly enough nor radically enough. With solid Republican opposition and some Democratic opposition, Congress refused to enable cap 'n tax by declaring CO2 a major cause of global warming (aka globaloney or climate change).

This was a bureaucratic seizure of power without any basis in law or the Constitution. In theory (and previously at law), a bureaucracy could only implement regulations that addressed issues within the act from which the agency gets its authorization. "Global warming" and CO2 were not even on the Clean Air Act radar when passed in 1970 and no amendments to the Act which would even hint at regulation of CO2 have ever been passed, even in the revisions of 1996. But the 1996 revisions did suggest that Congress had the ultimate power to create an expedited process for consideration of joint resolutions to overturn regulations of which Congress disapproves.

Recognizing that even with control of both houses of Congress, "global warming" remedies (carbon-trading schemes) were not going to become the law of the land, the White House gave the green light to the EPA to move on the issue anyway. Constitutional scholars Barack Obama and Eric Holder aren't the least bit concerned that the Constitution is a "living document" on this one. They went straight to considering the Clean Air Act a living document and allowed a bureaucracy to make up rules and regulations on a topic that isn't even covered by the Clean Air Act.

That is what the REINS bill addresses. The Congress since the 1930s and the creation of the Roosevelt "alphabet" agencies has granted broad power to bureaucratic agencies, but have passed concomitant limits on their actions. Sadly, as leviathan grew, the agencies did as well, but the Congressional oversight was honored more in the breach than in the observance. Conservative Republicans have decided to reverse that trend.

The Act would limit new agency regulations to a short life to cover emergencies (at the moment, 90 days seems to be the target), at which point the regulations would have no force or effect without Congressional approval. In other words, unlike previous limitations, the regulations don't continue until Congress nixes them. They last only a limited period of time, then die, unless Congress actively approves them. That would mean that radical measures taken by an agency would not disappear into the woodwork to be cited as precedent later for more radical measures. The Act also purports to limit bureaucratic regulations addressing any issue which is not contained in the enabling legislation (think "global warming" and CO2).

The statist bureaucrats (which include most Democrats, most liberals and all leftists) of course object on the ground that such an Act would limit the agencies and create a difficult hurdle for federal regulations, particularly those which affect health, safety or the environment, and create another opportunity for business interests to block regulatory initiatives. Well--no duh! That's the whole idea. Of course they always throw private business in as the evil Grinch, just because there actually is a record of some rogue corporations defying or ignoring reasonable regulations or blocking attempts by agencies to thwart their naughty ways.

Much like the current attempts to repeal Obamacare, this bill is unlikely to succeed for the present. But also like the repeal attempt, it is not merely symbolic. It is notice to the other side that enough is enough. Midnight arm-twisting and defiance of the people to pass legislation, as well as bureaucratic usurpation of Congressional responsibilities are about to come to an end. Conservatives and moderate/conservative Republicans as well as sensible Independents will learn who stands for unfettered bureaucracy and who stands against. Likewise, if and when the Act actually passes, the people will know where each Congress critter stands because his or her vote for or against a new bureaucratic regulation will be required and become public record.


Tennessee Jed said...

Thanks, Hawk - even if Obama were to veto it or the Senate defeats it before it gets to him, reintroducing the bill in the House will help shed light on the issue. Likewise, grilling the bureaucrats in investigations can help do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: It's likely the bill will be defeated in the Senate, and it's not even a sure thing in the House. But the alphabet agency takeover of the proper functions of Congress and the White House is of great concern to the majority of Americans. Even in defeat, it's a major future campaign issue (the EPA power-grab is not some esoteric insider issue that the public won't understand). I think its prospects for future passage are very good. We're talking about billions of dollars of the public money that is being thrown around on hare-brained schemes over which nobody is taking the requisite responsibility.

Tam said...

I love this more subtle approach to governing our guys are taking...destroy the bureaucracy from the inside out, instead of taking big, potentially polarizing issues (like immigration or social security) and avoiding big show trials. I think that in the long run, this will work to the country's great advantage even if it doesn't make an impression early on. Love the long term, big picture thinking!

Anonymous said...

Tam: This is an example of politicians doing their job instead of putting on the appearance of doing their job. The Democrats are the ones who put band-aids on the cancer of federal expansionism. They have hundreds of solutions for non-problems, but none for real problems.

It's up to the Republicans, and particularly conservatives, to look at the long-range goals and some serious surgery. It's a bit like James Q. Wilson's "broken windows syndrome." Clean up some of the smaller but more basic problems first and make the atmosphere for wrongdoing less attractive and more obvious.

StanH said...

The problems of this country are decades in the making, it will require several election cycles to straighten out. In the short term, Congress does control the money, do not raise the debt ceiling, without serious concessions. Begin to starve the beast, the federal beauroacracy.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Many people are becoming aware of the problems. And most are looking at solution as such an enormous task to be nearly impossible. A mountain can be moved but the first stone must be moved in order to begin.

There must be a way to illustrate to the rest of the population the real danger of continuing as we are. Then maybe that first stone can be moved.

It appears to me that we as a country are at a point of decision
which can start us back to prosperity.

Proposals that could result in positive gains seem to come and go but don't stick around long enough to sprout and grow.

Must we collapse to near ruin before the population see s the light?

Anonymous said...

Stan: Starving the beast is going to have to be our major strategy for the next two years. It's not the best, but it's not awful either. Meanwhile, with issues like the unilateral growth of the bureaucracy we have things of serious concern to the American people to bring up and even bring to a vote. The one thing we have to be careful not to do is to bring up a bunch of token showboat bills that have no chance to win. That would water down the impact of bills that ought to be passed but won't as long as the Democrats control the Senate and the White House.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: Let's not begin to despair or lose heart. There is much that can be done to keep responsible, conservative ideas in front of the people. Sizable wins on genuinely important bills in the House that go down to defeat in the Senate or a veto from the White House are what a future platform is built on. It is the job of the new leadership to make sure that only important issues are addressed and that the public is not allowed to forget how the Democrats acted in response.

Tehachapi Tom said...

So what have we learned in 2,065 years?

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.

People must again learn to
work, instead of living on
public assistance."

Cicero - 55 BC

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