Three steps for reasserting Congress in regulatory policy
Each year, federal agencies produce more regulations. These regulations affect nearly every aspect of our lives, yet are never voted on by Congress. This is a remarkable and troubling development for the separation of powers. Regulations have the effect of law. Thus, Congress’ mostly hands-off approach to regulation has ceded a huge amount of its lawmaking authority to the executive branch, often with deleterious consequences.
This is regrettable. Congress has a duty to see to it that federal regulations comport with the law. Additionally, individual members would better serve their constituents by re-asserting their authority in regulatory policy.
Congress should take three steps to reclaim its legislative power. Leadership in both chambers can re-engage legislators’ interest by regularly notifying them of new proposed rules and pending final rules. Leadership offices may do this themselves or establish a congressional task force to monitor the Federal Register and notify members. Next, Congress can use the Congressional Review Act to halt some rules from taking effect. It empowers any representative or senator to introduce a resolution of disapproval that, if approved by both chambers and the president, would overrule the regulation before it takes effect. Finally, Congress can enact legislation like the REINS Act, which has been introduced in several recent sessions of Congress. REINS (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) legislation would require congressional votes of approval before the most-costly and significant regulations could take effect.