House Republicans pass extreme anti-regulation measures

House Republicans pass extreme anti-regulation measures
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Republicans in the House of Representatives quickly passed sweeping reforms intended to gut the federal regulatory apparatus of much of its power on Wednesday, approving the Regulatory Accountability Act by a 238-183 vote with just five Democrats in favor, the Hill reported.

The RAA limits the cost of new regulations by instructing agencies to craft the "least expensive" regulatory measures possible, according to the Hill, but also changes "nearly every step U.S. agencies take in creating and applying new rules," Reuters noted. The move comes on the tail of other successful Republican efforts to hamstring agencies' ability to craft new rules without congressional approval and gives the newly ascendant GOP increased capacity to kill off existing regulations.

According to Reuters, the RAA "would require agencies to post more detailed information on proposals for an extended period of time, limit judge's interpretations in legal challenges and require agencies to enact the lowest-cost version of a rule."

Republicans portrayed the bill's passage as an attempt to fight back against oppressive, job-killing regulation that was draining the economy. But the House also voted for a more extreme bill called the Reins Act, which the San Francisco Chronicle reported "would require any rule costing industry more than $100 million — so any significant regulation, basically — to be submitted to Congress. If either chamber fails to approve the rule within 70 days, it will die."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the measures are intended to help fulfill Republican President-elect Donald Trump's campaign promise to "drain the swamp," according to Reuters, though that promise was — at least in theory — referring to corruption, not regulation. Trump is broadly in support of neutering agencies that currently regulate everything from food and medicine safety protocols to the handling of polluting waste, and his transition team has gone so far as to seek the names of individual staffers at certain agencies, such as those with the Department of Energy involved in efforts against climate change.

There will be an opportunity to contest the rules in the Senate, however, where Democrats remain numerous enough to filibuster GOP legislation.