The Corner

Omnibus Bill: Search in Vain for the Regulatory Relief

There are certainly some good things in the Omnibus Spending/Tax Extenders bills that dropped early this morning (though I thought this Congress was elected to stop this kind of legislation-by-crisis). Unfortunately, what’s not in the bill suggests Congress missed several opportunities to rein in the Obama administration’s regulatory overreach.

My tax policy colleagues think the good outweighs the bad. The provision preventing taxation of Internet commerce is good. The oil export language is good. There are some very good things reinforcing First Amendment rights (which shouldn’t need reinforcing in the first place). Yuval Levin has written about the complexities of the health care provisions.  But you’ll search the bills in vain for any meaningful regulatory relief.

This is a huge disappointment. We were told  there were bipartisan coalitions in favor of several riders that would bring regulatory relief to suffering businesses and property owners. But virtually all of them disappeared in the final draft. There are no riders that do any of the following:

  • Block the EPA/Army Corps of Engineers’ Water of the United States rule, which expands government power over even arid areas;
  • Block the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is likely illegal, but which the administration hopes will do its damage before being struck down in court;
  • Block funding of the Green Climate Fund giveaway that President Obama agreed to in Paris last week;
  • Block the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, the “Obamacare for your IRA;”
  • Block any of the administration’s labor agenda, such as the joint employer rulings, which aim to roll back business practices 40 years;
  • Block the implementation of the FCC’s harmful “net neutrality” provisions.

Moreover, the bill did include cybersecurity provisions—the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA)—that are inferior to other proposals. As my colleague Ryan Radia said:

Among many problems, CISA lacks a key safeguard to prevent government abuse: a private right of action that lets people sue the government if they’re injured when an agency misuses personal information it receives from a company for cybersecurity reasons. Unlike CISA, both House bills include a private right of action, and for good reason. Without it, Americans would have to rely on government agencies to effectively and reliably police themselves—in spite of all the evidence that such “internal” safeguards simply do not work.

In other words, this Congress has exercised some control over the President’s purse strings but has done little to prevent his use of his “pen and phone” to exercise greater control over ordinary Americans, their property, and the way they do business.

I say “little” because there are some crumbs. The ludicrous Obamacare rule requiring restaurants to display the calorie content of every single menu item has been delayed. My colleague John Berlau notes one good thing accomplished in relation to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the unaccountable agency created by Dodd-Frank. But overall, the Democrats mounted a successful goal line stand against attempts to push through regulatory relief.

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