Largely under the media radar, two bills strongly supported by Congressman Goodlatte that would make it much harder for the federal government to protect workers, consumers and the environment have been approved by Republican majorities in the House of Representatives.
Having failed in his effort to gut a Congressional ethics watchdog, Goodlatte is now intent on weakening the government’s ability to protect health, ensure safety and save lives.
Under the bill, no major regulation could take effect unless it is approved by both houses of Congress within a limited period of time. This would effectively amend every existing regulatory statute – including bedrock laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act – and neuter them. The regulatory system would return to what it was in the age of the robber barons with no federal agency able to use its technical and scientific expertise to protect the public. Either house of Congress could kill any future safeguard simply by failing to act.The public expects the government to be able to protect it from toxins in food, consumer products, air and water. The REINS Act would make that virtually impossible. It would amount to a coup by ideologues and special interests that have been unable to block safeguards through normal legislative and constitutional processes.The bill’s sponsors understand how completely their bill would shut down the regulatory system. Apparently, for that reason, they have added a new provision – a one-year delay – to make sure that REINS could not get in the way of Trump Administration efforts to repeal regulations. REINS would close up the regulatory system so completely that efforts to alter or repeal regulations would also never be able to take effect.
Another bill, the Regulatory Accountability Act, was introduced by Goodlatte and opposed by the American Lung Association, among other groups. Harold P. Wimmer, president and CEO of the association, issued the following statement:
“Simply put, the Regulatory Accountability Act is slow-motion government shutdown. It would have dangerous consequences for Americans’ health, particularly on our most vulnerable populations, including children, older adults and those living with lung and heart disease. The American Lung Association is disappointed in the House’s passage of this legislation and calls on the Senate to reject it.
“This bill would not ensure ‘regulatory accountability.’ Instead, under the guise of reform, it would impose dozens of unnecessary requirements that would bog down the process for setting health safeguards – safeguards that would successfully prevent more asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths.
“Current law already requires that federal rules go through extensive review, analysis and public comment before they are finalized. H.R. 5 would impose additional layers of red tape on agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration that would dramatically impair their ability to do what the Clean Air Act and the Tobacco Control Act set out to do: protect our health from harmful air pollution and tobacco products.
“Furthermore, the bill prioritizes industry profits over public health, requiring that agencies default to setting rules with the estimated least cost to industry – not, for example, according to what the science says is necessary to protect health.
“The Regulatory Accountability Act is a broad assault on the ability of federal agencies, including the EPA and FDA, to protect public health. The Lung Association urges the U.S. Senate to save our lungs and vote against H.R. 5.”