What does the REINS Act do?

For all new major regulations with an economic impact of $100 million or more, the REINS Act would require an up-or-down vote by both the House and the Senate and the signature of the President before they can be enforced on the American public.

Why is the REINS Act necessary?

For too long, Congress has delegated much of its constitutional authority to Executive Agencies. This has allowed Executive Branch agencies to implement rules that are sometimes ineffective, redundant, time consuming, costly, and even counterproductive. In addition, it has allowed previous Congresses to limit their accountability for such rules by front-loading the benefits of legislation and back-loading the costs.

The REINS Act would restore congressional responsibility and accountability in the regulatory process so that the elected representatives of the people can be held accountable. This will ensure that new major rules serve their intended purpose and do not place unnecessary burdens on the job-creating businesses that our economy needs to grow.

What is a "major rule"?

The term `major rule' refers to any rule or proposed rule that has an annual economic impact of $100 million or more.

Is the REINS Act constitutional?

Yes. The Constitution provides all legislative powers to Congress. Regrettably, both Democrats and Republicans have been too willing to delegate this responsibility to the Executive Branch. Now the Executive Branch has so many delegations of authority that Executive Agencies can virtually legislate at will through regulation. The REINS Act will help to restore accountability and constitutionality to the regulatory process, and would constrain the delegation of congressional authority by limiting the size and scope of agency rule-making authority to non-major rules.

The REINS Act satisfies both the bicameralism and presentment requirements of the Constitution. Just as the delegation of authority for major rules is removed by the REINS Act through the normal legislative process, joint resolutions of approval for major rules require bicameral passage and presentment to the President to be implemented. As such, the REINS Act is fully consistent with the Supreme Court's decision in INS v. Chadha.

Wouldn't the REINS Act hold up rules?

No. The REINS Act ensures that major rules are considered in a timely fashion. Congress and the President would have 70 legislative days to pass a joint resolution under the REINS Act.

If a REINS resolution is not passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the President within this time, then the rule under consideration would not take effect.

Regulatory agencies issued 100 major final rules in 2010.

In the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives had time to pass more than 600 resolutions that did not substantively change the law. These took the form of naming post offices, congratulating a sports team, or recognizing a certain day, week, or month.

Congress can and should apply its time to regulations that have such a major impact on our economy and jobs.

While the Senate has a history of filibustering legislation, the filibuster would not apply under the REINS Act. The bill provides provisions similar to the current "fast track" authority provided for joint resolutions of disapproval and Free Trade Agreements.

Is the REINS Act retroactive?

No. If passed, the REINS Act would apply only to major rules finalized after the date of REINS enactment.

Would the REINS Act remove important public safeguards?

No. First, it does not apply retroactively. Second, the REINS Act itself does not pre-judge the value or necessity of any regulation.

The REINS Act is simply about making the people's elected representatives responsible and accountable for those laws that have a major impact on our economy and society. It will also encourage greater communication between Congress and the Executive Branch during the drafting process for regulations.

Would the Senate be able to filibuster proposed major rules?

No. The REINS Act contains provisions that automatically end debate and negate the need for a cloture vote.

Would the REINS Act take away input from agency experts and specialists?

Not at all. One major goal of the REINS Act is to ensure a dialogue between Congress and the respective agencies before the rule reaches a vote in Congress.

REINS would promote smarter, more accountable regulation that is both realistic and based on the original intent of legislation.

Will the REINS Act mean more votes for Congress? Is this the best use of Congress' time?

The term "major" rule was created by passage of the Congressional Review Act (5 U.S.C. § 804(2)) in 1996. The law requires the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make a determination about whether or not a proposed rule meets the following criteria:

A proposed rule is to be considered "major" if it has resulted in or is likely to result in:

  1. an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more;
  2. a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, federal, state, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; or
  3. significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, or innovation, or on the ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets.

Historically, the average number of major final rules annually between 1997 and 2010 is around 68, so the REINS Act would result in an estimated additional 50-100 votes each year.

In the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives had time to pass more than 600 resolutions that did not substantively change the law. These took the form of naming post offices, congratulating a sports team, or recognizing a certain day, week, or month.

Congress has specific constitutional responsibility for making the laws facing Americans, so votes on rules with $100 million impact or more on our economy should be considered a high priority.

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