Regulatory Accountability Act Puts Americans At Risk For Sake Of Corporate Profit
“Regulatory Accountability” sounds really, really boring.
That’s what the Republicans in Congress are counting on. They expect you to hear just the name Regulatory Accountability Act, and instinctually turn away, shrugging your shoulders, in boredom.
Don’t fall for it. The core strategy of the Republican-controlled Congress is to destroy all the most important, commonsense protections provided by the federal government – control of pollution, workplace protections, prevention of food contamination, product safety for infants and children, safeguards for nuclear power plants, and so on – not by attacking them head on, but by undermining the fundamental ability of the federal government to function. They’re engaging in this attack through legislation that goes under the radar of most America. Last week, it was the REINS Act. This week, it’s the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) – H.R. 5.
The REINS Act creates a blanket default that prevents all new federal government protections of workers, families, children, and communities from employer abuse and toxic substances in the environment – unless the GOP Congress acts within a tiny window of time. Yesterday, the U.S. House compounded the problem by passing the Regulatory Accountability Act.
The Regulatory Accountability Act adds to the obstruction of the REINS Act by setting down a thicket of new bureaucratic roadblocks and delays that are nearly impossible to navigate. The RAA also requires federal agencies to implement rules that cause the least possible trouble to big businesses, prioritizing corporate profits over the wellbeing of the American people.
Republican politicians like to claim that they are against big government bureaucracy, but as U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva explains, the purpose of the RAA is to create so much new bureaucracy that the democratically-established government of the United States simply can no longer function. “H.R. 5 is nothing more than Republicans seeking to micromanage the regulatory process to death. They claim they only want good government. In reality, they want no government at all. They want to wrap Federal agencies in so much red tape that they won’t be able to move to protect our health, our safety, or our natural resources.”
To understand the scope of the problem created by the Regulatory Accountability Act, consider one amendment that U.S. Representative Paul Tonko attempted to make to the RAA. The Tonko amendment sought to create a small exemption from the RAA, so that federal government agencies could continue to protect Americans from exposure to toxic chemicals. The amendment read simply, “This Act, and the amendments made by this Act, shall not apply in the case of a rule (as such term is defined in section 551 of title 5, United States Code) made pursuant to the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, or the amendments made by that Act. The provisions of law amended by this Act, as in effect on the day before the date of the enactment of this Act, shall apply to such rules.”
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act simply enables scientific assessment of the risks to Americans’ health that are posed by the chemicals to which they are exposed during the consumption of commercial products and services. It’s common sense that Americans ought to know whether they are being exposed to toxic chemicals at a level that harms their health.
On the other hand, it’s not at all common sense to actually conduct the kind of scientific analysis that can meaningfully assess whether particular chemicals in consumer products and services are toxic. That kind of work requires education, expertise, equipment, good management, and regulatory authority, which the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act provides.
Yet, protection from toxic chemicals requires something even more than that. It requires the ability to address the threats of particular toxic chemicals. The U.S. Congress doesn’t have the time or the scientific expertise to craft a specific law for every single toxic chemical. Under its current leadership, Congress has trouble even passing a budget on time. That’s why legislation like the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act provides regulatory authority to federal agencies to issue rules, based on science, regarding individual toxic chemicals.
Representative Tonko explains, “The Members that worked on TSCA reform deferred many of these procedural decisions to the EPA because we lacked the expertise necessary to determine every detail of the most effective, streamlined regulatory process. We are not toxicologists or chemists, so we empowered the scientists that do this work to receive public feedback and create regulations, based on congressional intent, within a reasonable amount of time.”
The administrative rules passed under laws like the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aren’t outrageous Executive abuses in defiance of congressional authority. They are explicitly congressionally-authorized. Executive rules are the manifestation of the will of Congress.
So, why did every single Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives vote against the Tonko Amendment to preserve protections from toxic chemicals? The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, after all, was passed by a majority-Republican Congress just last year. Why would Republicans cripple this vital law now?
The sad fact is that it’s all about money. Corporate lobbyists complain that it’s too much trouble and expense for them to make sure that the chemicals they use in their products won’t hurt the people who use them. They say that Americans ought to tolerate weak protections from toxic chemicals, because corporate profits are more important.
Republican members of Congress rely on money from corporate donors, made through shadowy independent expenditures from corporate-linked political action committees and other mystery donors. So, when corporate lobbyists say that they don’t want strong protections against toxic chemicals, the Republicans in control of Congress obey.
Legislation such as the REINS Act and the Regulatory Accountability Act are about taking power away from the people hard at work to keep Americans safe, and giving that power to American corporations instead.
These laws place the reins of power in corporate hands. They make regulations accountable to corporations, rather than to the people.
Neither the REINS Act nor the Regulatory Accountability Act have yet been passed by the U.S. Senate. Until this happens, the bills cannot become law.
There is still time to prevent these terrible engines of corruption from becoming law – if the American people are willing to take power back into their own hands.