The Corner

Regulatory Freeze Needs to Be Part of the Deal

Representative Bill Flores’s Terms of Credit Act, which sought to pair the debt limit increase with significant spending cuts and deregulatory measures, failed to win enough support to advance in the House last Friday. That is a shame, as one of its provisions aggressively tackled the regulatory burden holding back the American economy.

That provision calls for a complete freeze on significant regulatory activity until 2017. It defines “significant” regulations as those imposing an annual cost to the economy of over $50 million a year — down from the longstanding $100 million threshold — with exceptions for imminent threats to public health and safety and trade treaty obligations. The bill also would have stopped this administration’s issuing any “midnight regulations” at the end of its term.

The Terms of Credit Act would only have been a good start in reining in the regulatory state. President Obama has boasted of his ability to rule the nation with his “pen and phone,” and has even started to govern not by edict, but by blog post. Congress created this problem by delegating legislative power to the executive branch, and so needs to do much to fix it.

The problem has become urgent. My colleague Wayne Crews estimates that federal regulations cost the average household about $15,000 a year. The administration is writing 16 new laws for every law passed by Congress. And there are about 3,500 new regulations in the pipeline, including the so-called Clean Power Plan, which will cost every American $7,000 by 2030.

Regulations often don’t get as much attention from conservative policy makers as do issues related to taxes and spending. Yet, they are increasingly the means by which progressives, frustrated at their inability to raise taxes or spending further, are imposing their policies on the American people.

This will continue until Congress does something about it. Of course, this president will just use his pen to veto any stand-alone bill restricting his use of pen and phone. Therefore, constraints on new regulations (with the exemptions mentioned above) have to be part of a deal in which they are traded for something else the president needs more.

Despite what happened to the Terms of Credit Act, Representative Flores and the Republican Study Committee should be congratulated for introducing a regulatory freeze into the legislative conversation. It needs to be brought up every time the president needs to make a deal.


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