Who Is Accountable for Federal Regulations?
Cosponsored with The George Washington University
About This Event

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Efforts to make elected officials accountable for the growth of government are currently focused on taxing and spending. But government regulation has been growing at a rapid rate, too; a recent report from the Small Business Administration Office of Listen to Audio

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Advocacy pegs the costs of regulation to the public at $1.75 trillion annually, and these costs are likely to rise sharply in the years ahead. One of the most intriguing regulatory reform proposals would make Congress and the President accountable for the most important rules written by agencies. The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would require that Congress vote to approve new regulations with economic effects of $100 million or more per year before they could take effect. This conference will begin with a presentation on the REINS Act by its principal sponsors, Representative Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) and Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), followed by a panel discussion of the act's feasibility and likely consequences by three leading regulatory experts. At lunch, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) will discuss his proposals for improving transparency and accountability in regulatory policy. Each session will include a period for questions and discussion.


9:10 a.m.


Presentation: The REINS Act to Restore Congressional Accountability


Panel: The Law, Practicality, and Politics of the REINS Act

JEFFREY A. ROSEN, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
DAVID SCHOENBROD, New York Law School and AEI

SUSAN E. DUDLEY, The George Washington University

Presentation: Uncertainty, Transparency, and Accountability in Regulation

12:30 p.m.


Event Summary

WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 2, 2010--Legislation aimed at reining in the cost of regulation would provide needed transparency and would keep regulations more accountable and focused, Representative Geoff Davis and Senator Jim DeMint, the bill's principal sponsors, said at an American Enterprise Institute event Thursday. A panel of regulatory experts joined the members of Congress to discuss the proposed REINS Act, which would require that new regulations with economic effects of $100 million or more per year be approved by a joint resolution of Congress before they take effect. Representative Davis (R-Ky.), the original author of the REINS proposal, argued that it would provide needed accountability and checks and balances in what is often unclear or confusing legislation. Senator DeMint (R-S.C.) observed that regulations are intended to provide a framework of fairness and order in a free-market system, but the structure of incentives as it currently stands encourages regulatory growth and uncertainty. He argued that REINS would keep the regulations more accountable and focused. Both legislators emphasized that regulatory agencies are typically well-meaning and attempt to interpret their legislative mandates fairly, but that their work could be much improved by the practical political judgments of elected representatives. Jeffrey Rosen noted that there is a considerable lack of transparency for regulations with high economic effects. David McIntosh proposed a few adjustments to the legislation, including setting up a parallel process for reviewing regulatory cost-benefit analysis. He warned about being aware of unintended consequences, such as a change in the political climate in which the executive branch supports deregulation and the legislative body supports greater regulation. David Schoenbrod noted that the regulatory system in place now allows Congress to take credit for the benefits of regulations while shifting blame for costs to the rule-making agencies. He argued that the REINS bill needs greater focus on accountability and clearer language, so that the average person can understand it. The event concluded with a luncheon talk by Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.). Senator Warner proposed three principles for regulatory reform: there should be a ceiling on the costs of regulation, we need better data on costs and benefits, and we need to consider regulation issues in the context of international competitiveness. While he thought the REINS Act had positive features, he noted that it might create more uncertainty about regulatory policy, especially where highly technical questions were concerned. He advocated beginning with a regulatory pay-go policy for several years, in which agencies would be required to improve or eliminate existing rules to generate resources for new rules.


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Speaker biographies

Jim DeMint was first elected to the U.S. Senate from South Carolina in 2004, following three terms representing his state's Fourth Congressional District; this November, he won reelection with 62 percent of the vote in a three-way race. He is chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, a caucus of conservative senators that includes the majority of the Republican Conference, and is a prominent opponent of excessive federal spending, taxation, and earmarks. Senator DeMint serves on several key committees: Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Foreign Relations; and the Joint Economic Committee.

Geoff Davis has represented Kentucky's Fourth Congressional District since 2004; this November, he was elected to a fourth term with 69 percent of the vote. In the House of Representatives, he is the Republican's deputy whip, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, and cochairman of the National Security Interagency Reform Working Group. A graduate of West Point, Congressman Davis served in the 82nd Airborne Division as an Army Ranger, Senior Parachutist, and Assault Helicopter Flight Commander. Before entering politics, he managed his own business specializing in lean manufacturing and high-technology systems integration.

Mark Warner was elected to the U.S. Senate from Virginia in 2008 with 65 percent of the vote following his 2002-2006 term as the commonwealth's governor. A leading proponent of bipartisanship and improved government performance, he is a member of the Budget; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and Rules and Administration committees, as well as the Joint Economic Committee. He also serves as chair of the Budget Committee's bipartisan Government Performance Task Force. Before entering politics, Senator Warner was a successful technology entrepreneur, cofounding Nextel and leading a variety of civic and philanthropic activities concerned with improving health care, reforming education, and closing the digital divide.

Susan E. Dudley is the founder and director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center and a research professor in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. She served as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in 2007–2009. Previously she directed the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University (GMU), taught at the GMU School of Law, was vice president and director of environmental analysis at Economists Incorporated, and worked as an economist at OIRA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

David McIntosh is a partner at Mayer Brown, where he has worked extensively on climate change and other environmental issues and on Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear waste issues. He represented Indiana's Second Congressional District in the House of Representatives for three terms (1995–2001) and served as chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Relief, which had oversight of environmental, labor, and FDA regulation. He was the executive director of the President's Council on Competitiveness and assistant to the vice president during the George H. W. Bush administration, where he worked closely with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He was special assistant to the attorney general and special assistant to the president for domestic affairs during the Reagan administration. He is the vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federalist Society.

Jeffrey A. Rosen is a senior litigation partner and regulatory lawyer for Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where he has worked for more than twenty-three years on antitrust and competition, energy, transportation, and environmental issues and on class action and mass tort litigation. He served as general counsel and senior policy adviser for the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2009 and as general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation from 2003 to 2006.

David Schoenbrod
is Trustee Professor at New York Law School and a visiting scholar at AEI. His many books include Power Without Responsibility: How Congress Abuses the People through Delegation (Yale University Press, 1995). A former senior staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, he is the coleader of "Breaking the Logjam: An Environmental Law for the 21st Century," a joint project of New York Law School and NYU School of Law, which proposes a major restructuring of environmental statutes to pursue their objectives more effectively and efficiently.

Christopher DeMuth
is the D. C. Searle Senior Fellow at AEI, where he served as president from 1986 to 2008. He was the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and the executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief during President Ronald Reagan's first term. From 1977 to 1981, he taught at the Kennedy School of Government and directed the Harvard Faculty Project on Regulation.

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