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Column

Q&A: REINS Act

Q: What is the REINS Act?

A: Article I of the U.S. Constitution assigns authority to Congress to write the laws of the land. This foundational cornerstone reflects the brilliance of the founders’ enduring wisdom: to ensure the laws governing the people of the United States are enacted “of, by and for the people.” By granting this power exclusively into the hands of representatives elected by the people, the American people are empowered to hold their lawmakers accountable for the laws they pass — or don’t pass — at the ballot box.

Unfortunately, a decades-long erosion of this lawmaking authority has diminished the ability of the people to influence the lawmaking process and arguably fostered more litigation in the courts. For many years, Congress has delegated excessive discretion to the federal bureaucracy to write the rules and regulations implementing laws governing daily life and the economy. It’s a slippery slope that weakens the people’s voice and emboldens an unelected bureaucracy to embark on a path of regulatory overreach. Farmers know it doesn’t do a lot of good to lock the barn door after the horse gets out, but that doesn’t mean you give up on ever getting the horse back. As a U.S. Senator, it’s my constitutional responsibility to uphold the Constitution. And one way to restore lawmaking authority to Congress is to rein in runaway regulations. I’m a cosponsor of legislation that would require Congress to affirm “major rules” proposed by the executive branch before they can be enforced on the American people.

Specifically, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would apply to any federal rule or regulation that may result in an annual economic impact of $100 million or more; present a major increase in costs or prices for American consumers; or pose significant adverse effect on the U.S. economy. So if the Army Corps of Engineers, the USDA or the EPA promulgate sweeping rules that negatively affect the businesses and livelihoods of working Americans, the REINS Act would return the final say to Congress, thereby giving citizens a bigger say in the process. It would strengthen a check on the executive branch and boost the power of the ballot box by restoring accountability and transparency to the byzantine rule-making process.

Q: Do you think the REINS Act will fix executive overreach?

A: Passage of the REINS Act would be a good start to rein in executive overreach, restore limited government and fortify the authority vested in Congress to write laws. Although it won’t prevent Congress from delegating too much authority to the executive branch, it would be a good tool to have in the shed when a federal regulation runs away from congressional intent. The sprawling federal bureaucracy is often referred to as an alphabet soup of federal agencies. With acronyms that include the IRS, FDA, USDA, FBI, EPA and ICE, these government agencies spend your hard-earned tax dollars to implement policies and programs designed to uphold public safety and operate public services for the public good. From clean air and clean water to aviation and food safety, the federal bureaucracy issues countless rules that impact the livelihoods and way of life for farmers, business owners and communities across the country.

The REINS Act would strengthen the constitutional framework by requiring “major rules” to be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. It would reassert the authority and accountability of elected members of Congress by requiring a bicameral seal of approval for rules that present the greatest regulatory burden on the economy and the American people. As a guardian for good government and as a taxpayer watchdog, I will continue working to build bipartisan consensus and conduct oversight that restores public confidence in the rule of law and our institutions of government.

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