I’ve been noticing some particular push for a measure called the REINS Act coming from House GOP (via Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, all the fun stuff I’m signed up for). The legislation would transfer authority for approving regulations whose estimated impact is over a certain monetary amount from the Executive branch over to Congress. While the measure is almost certainly going nowhere in the Senate (adding to the pile of ‘legislation as political point’), like usually we’re taking it seriously because, lets face it, you have to report on something when you have an unusually low turnout of enacted legislation. Brad Plumer reports on the possible implications of an enacted REINS Act:
Speaker John Boehner argues the bill would curb overreaching federal regulations that hurt small businesses and job creation. But giving Congress that authority could also usher in a lobbying bonanza from industry and other special-interest groups that could use campaign donations and other election spending to help shape the regulatory environment.
[…]But federal regulators heading up that process don’t have campaign coffers to fill. Shifting the approval of such rules to Congress would, accordingly, shift their lobbying over to elected lawmakers who rely on campaign contributions. So although Republicans argue that the status quo lets “major decisions to be made by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats,” their alternative accordingly makes more regulations vulnerable to deep-pocketed contributors who shape the electoral cycle.
One of the benefits of having “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats” (which, btw, is completely misleading) make some decisions is that in some cases it’s a good thing to be somewhat insulated from lobbying pressure.
This whole issue strikes me as one of those times when the framework of the status quo doesn’t benefit the minority party. Thus, like the inherent unfairness of life, we see a decidedly short-memory desire to change the rules to better circumvent the (un)fair benefits of winning elections. As usually, when those desires are so fulfilled, they usually become regrets when the minority party regains control.