The Framers sought to secure individual liberty by preventing too much power in too few hands. Our Constitution limits the reach of the federal government. Legitimate power is delegated by the people and enumerated in the Constitution.
Through the years, however, Congress has unlawfully delegated lawmaking power to executive agencies, concentrating power in the hands of the politically unaccountable. When presidential administrations cannot get through Congress, they circumvent our elected representatives by using old statutes to push their policy agenda through regulations. As a result, unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. wield a massive amount of control over the everyday lives of Americans.
The centralization of power has spawned the regulatory state, and it continues to grow with no sign of slowing down. President Biden is not the first president to abuse regulatory authority, but he is shattering records. During President Biden’s first year in office, agencies finalized 69 regulations with an annual price tag of at least $100 million. And nearly 75,000 pages of new and proposed rules, executive orders, presidential proclamations, and agency notices were added to the Federal Register. The Biden administration continued its regulatory spending spree in the second year by adding more than $117 billion in new regulatory costs. Along with the loss of personal freedom, federal regulations now cost Americans roughly $2 trillion per year.
President Biden is not the first president to abuse regulatory authority, but he is shattering records.
We did not get here overnight, and there is no magic bullet for the regulatory state. There is, however, a tested and proven policy to rein in federal overreach and prevent unelected bureaucrats from running the country. Congress could learn from the laboratories of democracy, as states have been proactive in addressing bureaucratic overreach. Florida requires legislative approval of million-dollar rules before they can become effective. In practice, Florida legislators must affirmatively support expensive rules before they are imposed on taxpayers. Wisconsin and West Virginia boast similar policies.
At the federal level, lawmakers should pass the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act to require legislative approval of major regulations—those with an annual economic impact of at least $100 million—before they are implemented. The REINS Act would help restore political accountability by requiring an up-or-down vote by Congress on costly administrative state regulations.
Executives at both the federal and state levels have launched initiatives to cut red tape, but robust regulatory reform requires more than deregulation. The REINS Act would help stop regulations before they become a problem. In addition to combatting the worst regulations, Florida’s policy has helped to tamp down the state’s regulatory burden by slowing the overall growth of government. While Florida governors have been busy cutting existing regulations,
Florida legislators have strengthened oversight on bureaucracy. And stronger legislative oversight means less regulation. Since enacting its policy in 2010, Florida has experienced a steady decline in new proposed rules. Notably, though, Florida’s policy has not stopped rulemaking altogether. It merely adds a new step in the regulatory process before the most-expensive rules can become effective. The same would apply to the federal regulatory process under the REINS Act.
Right now, the regulatory process is on the side of bureaucrats. Under the status quo, proposed rules move forward unless something steps in to stop it. The REINS Act reverses the regulatory momentum, forcing legislators to vote on the most-expensive rules. The policy would change the game by requiring agencies to face elected lawmakers before their regulations can have the force and effect of law.
Regulation is supposed to benefit people and help society function by implementing laws written by legislators, but needless regulation can do more harm than good. It burdens small businesses and kills new jobs. It hurts low-income families the most as individuals try to work their way up the economic ladder.
The national debt has soared to more than $32 trillion, and the only meaningful check on the regulatory state is through the courts. Congress should reclaim its lawmaking power by following the lead of state lawmakers and passing a REINS policy. State lawmakers can help beat back bureaucracy by testing their own REINS policies, showing federal lawmakers how to protect taxpayers.