For Immediate Release: August 1, 2013
The National Consumers League expresses strong opposition to a bill the House will consider shortly that we believe will undermine critically important consumer protections. The so-called “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (the REINS Act),” “H.R. 367” is an ill-conceived measure that would undercut the ability of federal agencies to protect consumers from unsafe food, predatory financial products and schemes, and dangerous consumer products. The federal rulemaking process is already lengthy and difficult and this bill would only make it even more time-consuming, expensive, and burdensome for federal agencies to propose consumer protection measures. We believe the end result will be harm to American consumers.
The REINS Act requires that any agency that issues a rule with an economic impact of $100 million or more obtain approval from both houses of Congress of the entire rule without changes, within 70 legislative days of the rule’s being received by Congress. If both chambers do not approve the rule within this time frame, it cannot take effect and is tabled until the following congressional session.
This legislation affects all major rules, even the vast majority that are not controversial. With few exceptions, if Congress fails to act in the allotted time, the rule could not be brought up again until the next Congress and would not be implemented. This hurdle would be virtually impossible for important consumer protection rules to overcome. The bill strips away the authority of federal agencies that Congress created to develop expertise on how to protect American consumers from dangerous products, tainted food and predatory financial products and services. Most agencies will simply give up trying to protect consumers. If an agency were to persist in its efforts, it would face the prospect of squandering enormous resources to research, write and evaluate an important consumer protection rule, only to be stymied by well-funded special interests able to bottle up the proposed rule in a single house of Congress over a short period of time.
In the Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, and the Food Safety Modernization Act, for example, Congress delegated rulemaking authority to regulatory agencies precisely because that is the purpose and function of these agencies. Congress has a critical role to play in holding hearings and enacting legislation to address national problems. The regulatory agencies have the expertise to then craft and adopt rules in the highly technical areas governed by each bill. If Congress were to now reverse course and put itself into the role of approving all new rules, the result would be regulatory gridlock at great cost to the health and well being of our citizens.
The REINS Act would add a significant impediment to a regulatory process that already is fraught with delays in the implementation of important consumer protections. Further, this bill would give a majority of members of one chamber of Congress the ability to prevent any consumer protection from becoming law even if the rule is not controversial, is supported by the public and is necessary to protect American consumers. This bill hijacks the process for protecting the health and safety of all Americans and must be stopped. We urge members of the House of Representatives to oppose this unfortunate and ill-conceived legislation.
If adopted, the REINS Acts would waste federal resources, minimize the ability of federal agencies to do their jobs to protect the public and ultimately harm American consumers. We strongly urge you to oppose this bill.
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.