The early days of the 115th Congress will see a focus on a regulatory reform, as the House of Representatives seeks to reestablish Article I of the Constitution, which delegates lawmaking authority solely to the legislative branch. Passage of legislation to rein in the regulatory state, however, is only one part of this important effort.
Bills like the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, the Separation of Powers Restoration Act, and the Midnight Rules Relief Act are likely to see quick passage out of the House. Each of these worthy measures passed the House in the 114th Congress only to languish in the Senate.
While procedural hurdles could continue to stall these bills in the upper chamber, a proxy battle in the war against the regulatory state will come by way of the confirmation process for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Regulatory overreach is not a new threat to the constitutional separation of powers and the prosperity of the American people. President George W. Bush, as explained by Veronique de Rugy in January 2009, “was the biggest regulator since Nixon.” According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Wayne Crews, the Bush administration issued 390 “economically significant” regulations — those with an annual cost of $100 million or more — over eight years.
But the Bush administration’s regulatory agenda pales in comparison to that of President Obama. In less than two terms, Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum explained in August, the Obama administration had issued 600 economically significant regulations, with a cost of $743 billion.
“President Obama could easily top 650 major rules by the time the next president takes the oath of office (31 percent more than his predecessor),” Batkins wrote. “What will the final tally be for major regulations? To date, the administration’s major rules have cost, on average, $1.4 billion. With the possibility of 50 more rules, the lame duck tally could push this regulatory cost figure to $813 billion ($743 billion base plus $70 billion in future rules).”