House Passes REINS Act

January 11, 2017

On Jan. 5, the House passed H.R. 26, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017, along party lines, with a vote of 237-187. It requires the House and the Senate to pass a resolution of approval, which the president must sign, within 70 legislative days before any major regulations — those with an estimated annual economic impact of $100 million or more — can take effect.

The House also passed an amendment offered by Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) to force agencies to offset the costs of new rules by repealing or amending an existing rule.

Essentially, the legislation allows the Speaker of the House to call for an immediate vote on a joint resolution of approval that has been on the calendar for at least five days, but only on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. The legislation does provide an exemption for any rule the president deems necessary to protect public health or safety, national security, international trade or to enforce criminal laws. Those rules, however, would only be allowed to be in effect for a 90-day period.

Several amendments offered by Democrats were rejected, including rules that make baby toys safer; reduce the levels of lead in public drinking water; protect public health and safety; and reduce the rate of cancer, premature death, asthma attacks and respiratory diseases in children.

This is the second bill passed in the first week of the 115th Congress to take aim at the executive branch. On Jan. 4, lawmakers approved legislation to amend the Congressional Review Act and allow Congress to repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of an outgoing administration.

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to sign H.R. 26, should it reach his desk. He previously stated, “I will sign the REINS Act should it reach my desk as President and more importantly I will work hard to get it passed.”

Meanwhile, the Senate’s powerful Democratic minority is the major roadblock for the advancement of the bill — the REINS Act would require 60 votes to pass the chamber, and Republicans only have a 52-seat majority, requiring several Democrats to lend their support, which is unlikely.

This is the fourth consecutive session of Congress in which the House has passed the REINS Act.

NSBA supports legislation which will stem the flow of regulations coming out of federal agencies as small businesses struggle to keep up. Small businesses on average spend more per employee on regulatory compliance than larger businesses which are also better suited to absorb the additional compliance costs. Steps should be taken to encourage consistent and responsible regulation. Increasing predictability in the regulatory process is crucial for small businesses to grow, and limiting the potential for several major regulations to be implemented at once will provide that predictability.