By Phil Kerpen
The very first thing in the U.S. Constitution after the famous “we the people” preamble is Article I, Section 1, which states “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Yet over time, more and more legislative power – the power to write laws – has been ceded to a vast federal bureaucracy that exercises control over nearly every aspect of American life.
This state of affairs has made the intricate system of checks and balances designed by the founders largely irrelevant, because rather than work with a Congress of the opposing party, a president can, as President Obama demonstrates frequently, implement his own agenda via regulation.
Will the next president be different? If any of the current Republican contenders wins in November, the answer is yes. All of the remaining GOP presidential hopefuls support the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act.
The bill, H.R. 427/S. 226, sponsored by Rep. Todd Young of Indiana in the House and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in the Senate, has traced a remarkable path. It didn’t come from any of the lobbyists, think tanks, or so-called experts in Washington: it came from a veteran, former judge, and longtime political activist named Lloyd Rogers in Alexandria, Kentucky.
In 2009, Rogers went to meet with his then-congressman, Geoff Davis. Both were outraged about an EPA stormwater management consent decree that cost the three northern Kentucky counties in a consolidated sewer a billion, with a B, dollars, approximately doubling water bills. Rogers, having studied the Constitution, didn’t understand how the EPA could double his taxes without so much as a vote in Congress.
Rogers asked Davis: “How come you guys can’t vote on these things?”
Davis took the idea back to Washington and developed the idea into the REINS Act, which requires all economically significantly regulations to be approved by Congress and signed by the president – or subject to a veto-override – before they can take effect.
The bill wouldn’t stop all bad regulations, because Congress is of course perfectly capable of making bad decisions. But it would ensure that the major economic policies of the country are decided by elected officials, who can be forced to explain themselves and face their constituents at election time. It would end the “blame the bureaucrats” excuse.
The REINS Act has now passed the House three times, most recently last summer on a strong 243 to 165 vote. It has never had a vote in the Senate, where Harry Reid scuttled it in each of the two previous Congresses. With Mitch McConnell now in charge, he would be wise to schedule a vote and put every senator on the record now.
Donald Trump, who some might assume would favor expansive presidential power, understands how important the bill is.
“I will sign the REINS Act should it reach my desk as President and more importantly I will work hard to get it passed,” Trump said. “The monstrosity that is the Federal Government with its pages and pages of rules and regulations has been a disaster for the American economy and job growth. The REINS Act is one major step toward getting our government under control.”
Senator Ted Cruz agrees.
“I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the REINS Act in the U.S. Senate and I would be equally proud to sign it into law as President,” Cruz said. “The REINS Act takes power away from out-of-control regulatory agencies and forces Congress back to its constitutional role of making the laws.”
Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign says: “Marco has long supported the REINS Act, and will sign it into law as President. He’s also proposed establishing a National Regulatory Budget, which would cap and cut job-killing regulations from rogue agencies like the EPA and IRS. Regulatory reform is a key component of restoring opportunities for the middle-class in the 21st century economy.”
Governor John Kasich never responded to our inquiry on the bill, but his campaign website confirms he “will urge Congress” to pass it.
So if a Republican wins the presidency, the only impediment to restoring constitutional balance to the regulatory system will be the U.S. Senate. Which is all the more reason the Senate should vote on it now, before the election, so the American people can see which senators would obstruct the REINS Act and which are up to the job of actually legislating.
By Phil Kerpen