A group of Republican House members this week introduced a bill aimed at preventing overreach by the executive branch in substituting Congress-passed laws with its own rulemaking. This comes about two months after the Senate introduced an identical bill.
The bill, known as the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2021, seeks to affirm Congress’s legislative power by requiring every new “major rule” proposed by federal agencies be approved by both the House and Senate before they can be enforced.
The proposed law defines “major rule” as any federal rule or regulation that may result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, government agencies, or geographic regions; or cause significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) and co-sponsored by more than two dozen House lawmakers, including Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
“The REINS Act is a measure that ensures Congress is the only lawmaker in the United States. This bill reasserts Article I authority that vests all legislative power in Congress and provides necessary oversight of the executive rulemaking process,” Cammack said in a statement on Wednesday.
“It’s about making sure the executive branch does not unduly overstep its vested authority through a necessary system of checks and balances.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced an identical Senate version of the bill in January. His office explained at the time that under the REINS Act, once a major rule is drafted, it would trigger a process that would require both chambers of Congress to approve and then be signed by the president. This requirement, he said, would satisfy the “bicameralism and presentment requirements of the Constitution.”
“For too long, an ever-growing federal bureaucracy has piled regulations and red tape on the backs of the American people without any approval by Americans’ elected representatives,” Paul said in the statement.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
In an interview with The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders last year, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said Congress has itself to blame for overreach by the judicial and executive branches.
Congress has in many instances surrendered its legislating authority to the executive branch of government, he said. This has led to the executive, the judiciary, and administrative agencies expanding their reach in order to fill the void left by lawmakers.
“The far more common type involves a delegation to the executive branch. We pass a law that says, in effect, we shall have good law in area X and we hereby delegate to commission or department or division Y the power to make and interpret and enforce rules carrying the force of generally applicable federal law in that area,” Lee said. “And from that moment forward, that division or department, or commission, is the lawmaker, and is also the law enforcer.”
Meanwhile, states have also cautioned Biden and his administration from engaging in federal overreach that could contravene the state’s authority to enact laws or violate various constitutional rights.
Six attorneys general wrote a letter to Biden in January to put his administration on notice that any actions that might exceed their statutory authority, are inconsistent with constitutional tenets, or place civil liberties at risk could trigger legal action by the states.
“We stand ready to meet with your administration to discuss more how the issues below affect our States; litigation is never first option, and we would like to help your team in its important job on behalf of all Americans, consistent with the Constitution and the rule of law,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is leading the group, wrote in the letter addressed to the White House (pdf).
“Yet, if you sign unconstitutional laws passed by Congress, it will be our responsibility and duty to challenge those laws in court. If cabinet officials, executive officers, and agencies go beyond the bounds of their statutory authority, fail to follow legally required procedures, or fall short of the bedrock Administrative Procedure Act obligation of reasoned decision making, it will likewise be our responsibility to take action.”
The Administrative Procedure Act is a federal law that governs the process for agency rulemaking and has been frequently invoked to challenge executive branch rules and regulations.