REINS Act Unleashes Dangers Across America
Yesterday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the REINS Act, H.R. 26. The REINS Act prevents federal agencies from passing administrative rules according to authority already provided by Congress. Under the REINS Act, new administrative rules could only take effect if Congress passes new legislation specifically authorizing the rules within 70 days.
The problem is that Congress almost never passes legislation within 70 days. If it becomes law, the REINS Act will ensure that only rules that are designed to serve powerful corporate interests will be instituted.
Administrative rules are the means by which the federal government ensures that existing laws effectively serve the general public. Congress has already granted the Executive Branch the power to make these rules. They’re a legal part of the process of good government that adapts to changing conditions, not an unconstitutional aberration from it.
If the REINS Act deprives federal agencies of their ability to create new administrative rules, we won’t see the effects right away. However, as conditions change over time, federal responses will need to adapt to them, and that will require new rules.
Administrative rules are like the motor oil that keeps the engine of the federal government running efficiently. When the REINS Act stops federal agencies from crafting rules, it’s like the owner of a car deciding to stop replacing the car’s motor oil. For a while, the car will run just fine. As time goes on, however, the car will experience an increasing number of problems, until it simply breaks down by the side of the road.
That’s what the Republicans who voted for the REINS Act are trying to do to the United States of America.
The Republicans want you to believe that breaking down the process of federal rulemaking won’t cause problems for the American people, but the GOP rejection of a series of attempted amendments offered by Democrats to the REINS Act proves that isn’t the case. In each instance, congressional Republicans voted specifically against the ability of federal agencies to protect people from real, serious threats to their health and safety.
U.S. Representative Bobby Scott offered an amendment to the REINS Act that would preserve the ability for the Mine Safety and Health Administration to protect miners from potentially deadly working conditions underground. The Republicans in Congress voted against protecting miners – they voted to kill the Scott Amendment.
U.S. Representative Jerry McNerney offered an amendment to preserve the ability to make rules that ensure the safety of pipelines transporting hazardous materials across America. The Republicans in Congress voted against protecting Americans from these hazardous materials – they voted to kill the McNerney Amendment.
U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler offered an amendment to preserve the ability to make rules to prevent the meltdown of nuclear reactors at aging power plants. The Republicans in Congress voted against protecting Americans from nuclear meltdowns – they voted to kill the Nadler Amendment.
U.S. Representative Hank Johnson offered an amendment to preserve the ability to make rules to protect babies under the age of 2 from dangerous new products. The Republicans in Congress voted against protecting babies – they voted to kill the Johnson Amendment.
U.S. Representative John Conyers offered an amendment to preserve the ability to make rules to prevent the contamination of families’ drinking water with lead, which leads to developmental handicaps in children. The Republicans in Congress voted against protecting children from lead poisoning – they voted to kill the Conyers Amendment.
U.S. Representative Kathy Castor offered an amendment to preserve the ability to make rules to prevent children from getting cancer and asthma. Republicans in Congress voted against preventing children from getting cancer and asthma.
The only protection the REINS Act provides is for corporations that seek to profit by operating recklessly, endangering American workers and families with toxic pollution and sloppy product design.
If it becomes law, the REINS Act will unleash a dark period in American history in which the government abandons its constitutional duty to protect the general welfare, as corporations cut corners and the American people pay the consequences.