Who should be in charge of America? It's a question people are asking a lot these days—in a lot of different ways.
The Constitution set up a system of government with limited powers, enforced by a system of checks and balances, and a deliberate tension between the branches of government and between the federal government, the states, and the people. Now people complain that those tensions have been dissolved, or that one branch of government has too much power, or that the federal government has simply grown too large—a complaint common among those who are advocates of limited government. But it is really one of the central divides in American politics today.
Earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives took an important step toward reversing the growth of government and restoring accountability for elected officials by passing, by a vote of 241 to 184, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, aimed at curtailing the authority of the so-called "alphabet soup" of independent federal regulatory and executive branch agencies.
As it now stands, Congress often defaults to federal agencies the responsibility for coming up wit h the regulations necessary to implement the laws it passes. As those laws are often unclear or deliberately vague, it gives federal regulators enormous power to determine what lawmakers meant when they wrote Obamacare, Dodd-Frank or Sarbanes-Oxley without Congress having to give its approval. The end result is that Congress is abdicating its responsibility by delegating away its authority to write the laws—never mind that in this case they are called "regulations."
The REINS Act, as it is more commonly known on Capitol Hill, changes all that by requiring that Congress give its explicit approval for all new major regulations, defined as those having an economic impact of more than $100 million on the U.S. economy, and that the president must sign it before it is allowed to go into effect.
"Job creators, big and small, continue to struggle in our economy—and needless red tape and excessive government regulations aren't helping," House Speaker John Boehner said after the bill was passed.
Instead of allowing unaccountable bureaucrats to issue new rules that hurt job growth, the REINS Act requires elected lawmakers to approve any new government regulation with a major impact on our economy before it can be imposed on families and small businesses. This simple but critical reform was a key part of Republicans' Pledge to America; it will dramatically improve transparency and accountability in the regulatory process, and will help create a better environment for private-sector job growth.
By tying Congress and the executive back into the regulatory process is this manner, it restores the accountability of elected officials for the behavior and decisions of the federal bureaucracy, a creature the Founding Fathers never contemplated. Now the legislation moves to the Senate where, under Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats, it will probably die a long, lingering, slow death—just like the 25 other jobs bills that have passed the House that Reid won't bring up in the Senate. But that doesn't mean the REINS Act and the other pro-growth, pro-jobs measures the House has passed this year won't be resurrected as part of some kind of first 100 days package of legislation in the new Congress if there's a new president in the White House.