REINS and CMR
Critical Legislation You’ve Barely Heard Off
Never heard of the “REINS Act” (H.R.277)? If you haven’t you wouldn’t be alone—but it is time to pay attention. “Our” U.S. Representative, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-CD4, eastern Washington) and every one of her Republican colleagues in the House voted Yea to pass REINS on June 14th. (Fortunately, this bill will languish in the Senate, at least until the next Congress is seated in 2025—a good reason to pay attention and be sure that Republicans never again attain a federal “trifecta”.)
That every Republican voted for REINS and every Democrat voted against it (save one) ought to flag REINS as indicative of what would happen if Republicans ever again have control of all three branches of the federal government. (The last time they achieved marginal control of all three branches was in 2017. Then they very nearly repealed the Affordable Care Act. Had they succeeded, millions of Americans would have lost their health insurance.)
Enacting REINS would be far more subtle than repealing the ACA. For as long as any of my readers has been alive, the pattern of federal government function has been this: Congress passes (often after long argument) enabling legislation, for example, legislation establishing the Environmental Protection Agency (1970). The legislation specifically endows an agency with circumscribed powers to develop regulations consistent with the mission the agency. In the case of the EPA, for example, these regulations include setting nationwide standards for clean water and clean air. Regulations are developed in a lengthy process that includes extensive hearings that include testimony from stakeholders that would be affected by the new rule. Note: In the current scenario, Congress already possesses the power to override a regulation an agency constructs—but such an override requires actual congressional action.
REINS would turn that process on its head. With REINS, a painstakingly developed executive agency regulation would wither and die in the absence of Congressional action. This is passive aggression at its best. Agencies could still develop regulations by the same meticulous process described above, but one might wonder why they would go to the trouble. REINS would empower Congress to block any and all new regulations (of a certain minimal magnitude) by simply ignoring their existence—essentially a passive aggressive “pocket veto”. Considering the level of disfunction that Congress habitually demonstrates, enactment of REINS would bring the function of the federal government to its knees. REINS would require Congress to act twice on every major regulation, first by passing enabling legislation and, second, by requiring affirmative approval of every “major” regulation the established agency developed. Any regulation that might cost the business interests that fund and control Republican members of Congress would have to await Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress to take effect.
How do Republicans expect to sell this POS to the American public? They would do so simply by relying on ignorance and propaganda. The sales pitch starts with the name, REINS. It stands for “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny”. The appeal relies on decades-long Republican/Libertarian think tank propaganda nurturing distrust in the federal government. (Think back to the drumbeat of Republican propaganda around the “spotted owl” as just one example.)
McMorris Rodgers’ propaganda wing spun REINS with this disingenuous statement to her targeted email audience of followers on June 16th:
I [McMorris Rodgers] made a promise to bring an end to President Biden and House Democrats’ reckless spending, which is why I helped pass the REINS Act this week to finally put a check on the president’s executive actions that are costing taxpayers billions of dollars and driving inflation through the roof. We still have a long way to go before we erase our nation’s historic debt, but holding the administration accountable for the economic crisis it created is a great place to start so we can get our country back on track. [the bold is hers, not mine]
Huh? What? McMorris Rodgers, the entire Republican/Libertarian Party, and their business allies and funders deserve a prize for disingenuous salesmanship that is just barely distinguishable from a bald-faced lie. Characterizing the REINS Act, a radical attack on the function of the federal government, as being an act that would rein in inflation and save money for taxpayers is horse manure at it finest, a characterization sold to an audience of brainwashed true believers.
REINS is the embodiment of Steve Bannon’s and Grover Norquist’s “deconstruction of the administrative state”. While most of America and all the major media paid no attention, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was lobbying hard for the passage of REINS, suggesting that it would publicly score members of Congress for their vote on Act. The Chamber statement uses words like “transparent, cost-effective, and rational” to obscure the full intent of REINS to deconstruct the administratively managed regulatory process that has brought us clean water and clean air—among many other benefits.
The fact that REINS was packaged with H.R.1640, the disingenuously (i.e. lyingly) named “Save Our Gas Stoves Act”, is telling. (The regulation trashed by H.R. 1640 has nothing to do with existing gas stoves.) If REINS were to become law, individual laws blocking regulations of things like the unhealthy emissions from gas stoves would become totally unnecessary. Instead, such agency-proposed regulation could just be ignored (assuming that anyone would make the argument that such regulation would have a minimum of $100 million dollars worth of effect anywhere in the economy).
You can be sure that if Republicans ever hold the presidency and simultaneously achieve working majorities in the both houses of Congress (a federal “trifecta”) they will immediately pass a REINS bill and make it law. Once enacted as law these bills would cripple the function of the Executive branch, concentrate power in Congress, and devolve power to the individual states, a profound re-arrangement of our governing structure.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. If you want a window on how REINS is being sold to our neighbors by Republican/Libertarian media I recommend “House passes legislation to rein in the administrative state” from the Washington Examiner, a totally online, free-to-read conservative/libertarian mouthpiece owned by mega-billionaire Philip Anschutz, whose wealth is rooted in oil-drilling.