When an agency writes a regulation, Congress does have a chance to review the regulation, thanks to a 1996 law (note that Congress did not have this power before 1996! and they had to pass a law to give themselves this!). The 1996 law was the ascendant Republican majority’s preferred method for dealing with the bureaucracy. Needless to say, it hasn’t done anything to rein in the bureaucracy, largely because it requires significant Congressional action to overturn the will of the bureaucracy (apparently it has happened once according to Wikipedia).
With Republican’s back on the ascent, they’ve come up with a new idea to rein in the bureaucracy – enter the REINS Act.
The REINS Act would change the process so that major regulations would be contingent on congressional approval — if a majority in each chamber does not vote “yes,” the regulation is not enacted.
A “major regulation” is a regulation that the OMB estimates will have “an annual effect on the economy of $100,000,000 or more.” To make this estimate, the OMB generally asks the agency that is writing the rule. Obviously, one has nearly unlimited scope to argue that a regulation will cost more or less than this, but let’s set this aside.
The REINS Act would require both houses of Congress to actually vote on each and every major regulation.
This would be awesome because it would be hysterical. You can go here and sort regulations by economic significance. You’ll see that there are a lot of significant regulations at any given time (and many many non-significant ones). Congress would effectively do nothing but debate things like whether there should be “Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica.”
Republicans have been trying to slow down the bureaucracy since Reagan tried the strategy of appointing heads of agencies who opposed the agencies they ran. Then they tried requiring cost/benefit analyses of regulations. Then they tried increasing Congressional review of regulations. None of these have worked.
The problem is that the bureaucracy is entirely unaccountable for regulations it issues and that it’s a part of the leftist establishment, along with the media and the universities (these parts of the system develop most of the ideas that turn into regulations – “science” which, by definition is anything done by an academic, is after all unquestionable. If science dictates that a certain regulation is necessary, who is a Congressman – anymore than a bureaucrat – to question science?). No amount of increased review of Congressional meddling will change this basic structure.