Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has been joined by 12 other Republican senators in introducing a bill that would require that every new major rule proposed by federal agencies be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.

The so-called REINS legislation — Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act — would apply to only major regulations, which the Office of Management and Budget defines as those rules that may result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; have a major increase in costs or prices for consumers; or cause significant adverse effects on the economy.

“We must put a stop to the reckless and costly anti-free market regulations that are destroying jobs,” said DeMint. “When the Obama administration hasn’t been able to ram their anti-job policies through Congress, they’ve empowered unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to force them through using regulations.”

A key example of a major rule is the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final rule establishing a mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting program for sources with emissions that exceed 25,000 tons per year (see NGI, May 17). EPA puts the cost of the rule at $115 million for the first year and $72 million on an annualized basis in subsequent years.

At an energy conference sponsored by the Washington Post last Thursday, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) said EPA regulation of carbon emissions was the only option left if Congress does not pass comprehensive climate change legislation.

“The question is no longer legislation or no legislation” to control GHG emissions, he told the crowd. Rather it’s “legislation or regulation” by the EPA, said Markey, who co-sponsored the cap-and-trade legislation in the House (see NGI, June 29, 2009).

“The Obama administration is saying, ‘We would prefer a comprehensive [legislative] plan to deal with all of the attendant collateral issues'” that a federal regulator cannot address, he said. But in the event no climate legislation passes Congress, Markey sees an “increasing likelihood that there will be regulation,” and he noted that Obama will veto any bill that attempts to limit his ability to authorize regulatory action.

The annual cost of federal regulations in the United States rose to more than $1.75 trillion in 2008, according to a recent report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. And research by The Heritage Foundation showed the Code of Federal Regulations, a compendium of existing federal rules, hit a record high of 163,333 pages in 2009, an increase of about 22,000 pages since the beginning of the decade.

“Some people in my state live in fear of what the EPA, Forest Service, BLM [Bureau of Land Management] or other agencies will do next that could harm their recreation or their business. It shouldn’t be that way,” said Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).

Other Republican senators who co-sponsored the DeMint bill were Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas, John Ensign of Nevada, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, James Risch of Idaho, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota, David Vitter of Louisiana and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) has introduced companion legislation in the House (HR 3765).

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