House Leadership Plans to Freeze Regulations...Even Though They Benefit from Them Every Day

The House Republican leadership doesn’t like regulations, despite the fact that they benefit from them every single day. When they take a bite of their salad, they can thank food safety regulations for helping ensure they won’t contract a foodborne illness. When they drive through their districts, they can thank regulations for helping ensure the highways are safe and that the people driving are qualified. And when they want to enjoy a family dinner without interruption after a long week, they can thank regulations for the Do Not Call list.

Yet, despite the countless ways these Members of Congress have benefited from regulations, they’ve spent the last two years trying to stop them in just about every way possible.

This effort will continue this July, as the House is scheduled to vote on three bills that will ensure the American people are LESS safe: the “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act” (H.R. 4078), the “Midnight Rule Relief Act” (H.R. 4607), and the “Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act” (H.R. 3862). These bills, combined, would prevent or delay just about every regulation – regardless of the ways in which these rules might benefit us.

The “Freeze Act” is the most far-reaching, extreme, and dangerous of this trio. Simply put, it would block any “significant” regulatory action for two years as long as unemployment remains above 6%. Not only would this stop important environmental protections in their tracks – it would also “freeze” regulations that ensure we aren’t contracting foodborne illness, that veterans receive benefits for defending our country, and that we aren’t injured when we go to work. It would even freeze the annual rules setting up the bird hunting season! The 6% threshold buys into the completely false premise that there is a direct correlation between jobs and setting health, safety, or environmental safeguards. However, studies have shown that setting standards leads to new technologies, new improvements in our standard of living and has at worst a neutral effect on jobs.

Instead of tying regulations to the unemployment rate, the Midnight Rule Relief Act ties it to the presidency. Indeed, it would stop any major regulations from being proposed or finalized during the approximately 3-month period between a presidential election and the swearing in of a new president (the “lame duck” period). While it’s true that presidents have been known to use this period to try to get some rules out the door quickly, it’s also true that many regulations that have been in the works for years may be scheduled to be proposed or finalized during that time period.

Last, but not least, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act actually rewards individuals who want the federal government to keep breaking the law because it benefits them. Yes, you read that right.  Under this bill, a party that disagrees with a settlement agreement or consent decree entered into by the federal government and a plaintiff (e.g., organization, individual, etc.) would be able to obstruct and delay such an agreement. In other words, a third party would be able to prevent the federal government from having to follow the law.

If the Members pushing these bills were to live in a society devoid of regulations for even a week, it’s safe to say that between the very polluted water they’d be drinking, the stop signs and traffic lights that would be nonexistent, and the untested prescription drugs they’d be taking, they’d end up in the hospital, where they’d probably just be worse off considering the needles wouldn’t be sterile and the nurses wouldn’t be wearing gloves, among other things.

“Regulations” may sound like a bad word, but, in reality, they are a welcome reflection of our democratic government – they are what ensures we feel safe and comfortable in our daily routines and don’t have the concerns felt by people in so many other countries. The fact that the Republican leadership has become so ideological that they would halt the entire regulatory system just shows how short-sighted they have become.   

*Thank you to Sean Alcorn for co-writing this blog.