Bloomberg News

House Backs Bill to Ban Regulations Until Unemployment Drops

July 26, 2012

The U.S. House voted to block thousands of potential future regulations covering every facet of the economy touched by the U.S. government, including such diverse areas as updates to rental subsidies for low-income tenants and Medicare payments to doctors and other health-care providers.

While the bill stands little chance of becoming law, its consideration today -- less than four months from Election Day - - provided lawmakers with a chance to vote against “Washington” by blocking basically everything the federal government does.

The vote, mostly along party lines, was 245-172.

Freshman Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said he viewed the vote as a way to help the economy.

“You want to get the economy moving again, it’s not another government program, it’s not another stimulus, it’s give me a moratorium on regulations,” he said in an interview.

The bill, which faces a possible veto, would end “major” federal regulations until the unemployment rate reaches 6 percent or below.

The U.S. unemployment rate, currently at 8.2 percent, hasn’t been below 6 percent since July 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Congressional Budget Office projected earlier this year that it would probably remain above 6 percent until late 2016.

That would delay implementation of two laws roundly opposed by congressional Republicans -- the 2010 health-care overhaul and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulatory law. Those laws rely on regulations that, for the most part, have yet to be written or implemented.

Environmental Rules

The measure would apply to any regulation with a projected economic cost of at least $50 million, as well as to regulations determined by the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to have a materially negative effect on jobs, public health and safety, local and state governments, or the environment.

Though the bill would allow for the president to waive the rule freeze in case of emergencies, the bill could block thousands of proposed regulations annually. Among those would be scores of environmental regulations covering emissions standards and waste disposal that have been fought by coal, oil and other energy companies.

“It amounts to ordering a government shutdown, and it’s a kind of coup d’etat by the most recalcitrant special interests,” Scott Slesinger, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an statement. “This will do nothing to create jobs, but it will prevent the nation from addressing real problems.”

Delaying Rules

It also could delay planned Federal Communications Commission rules on wireless spectrum auctions, which would fund a public safety wireless network that was called for in the aftermath of communications network disruptions following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The only areas of government the bill wouldn’t touch would be the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Open Market Committee and the U.S. Postal Service, each of which was specifically exempted from the measure.

The bill has almost no chance of passing the Democratic- held Senate, which has refused to consider at least three other House-passed bills to stall federal regulations.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, in a statement of administration policy, said that the measure “would undermine critical public health and safety protections, introduce needless complexity and uncertainty in agency decision-making, and interfere with agency performance of statutory mandates,” and that senior advisers to President Barack Obama would recommend a veto.

The bill is H.R. 4078.

To contact the reporter on this story: Derek Wallbank in Washington at dwallbank@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo5@bloomberg.net


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