Ed's Blog

House's New Target: All Health, Safety, Financial Protections

By Ed Mierzwinski
Consumer Program Director

Following their embarrassment a few weeks ago when a vote on Wall Street rollbacks using fast-track "name that post office" procedures failed (although the bill later passed under regular rules), the good news is that House leaders appear to be taking a hiatus from attacking financial reform directly this week. The bad news: instead, the House plans to move two proposals placing roadblocks in front of any agency -- from FDA, OSHA and EPA to the CFPB -- seeking to establish public health, safety or financial safeguards designed to protect consumers, workers and taxpayers. We're on the case.

Today, Wednesday, the House will consider HR 50, the so-called Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2015. According to a letter to the House from the PIRG-backed Coalition for Sensible Safeguards:

The bill neither improves nor streamlines the regulatory process. The current regulatory process is already plagued by hurdles and lengthy delays. H.R. 50 would make it even more difficult for agencies to implement laws already enacted by Congress. If passed, this legislation would rob the American people of many critical upgrades to public health and safety standards, especially those that ensure clean air and water, safe food and consumer products, safe workplaces, and a stable, prosperous economy.

Even worse, last night, the Rules Committee amended the bill to adopt as base text an arcane "budgetary pay-for" amendment by Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC) (scroll down to bottom for Amendment #4) that cuts the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's budget, even though the CFPB is not an agency subject to Appropriations. It is incredibly brazen for the House to make an anti-CFPB power play just one day after the CFPB returned $480 million to college student-victims of the notorious for-profit Corinthian Colleges. As a reward for ongoing good work,  the House now seeks to swoop in and cut their budget! Take a memo: Americans did not vote for, nor do they support, consumer protection rollbacks or Wall Street reform rollbacks.

But wait, there's more. On Thursday, the House moves on to consider HR 527, the so-called Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015. From the CSS letter:

Because the bill defines “indirect effects” broadly, it would mandate wasteful new analyses that could be applied to virtually any action an agency attempts to undertake, no matter how tenuous the connection to small business interests. When added to the existing gauntlet of procedural and analytical requirements that agencies must already navigate in order implement laws, SBRFIA’s new requirements would serve only to further “ossify” rulemaking and make it nearly impossible for agencies to fulfill their congressionally mandated mission of protecting the public and responding to emerging health and environmental dangers.

The House has already approved another bill, the so-called Regulatory Accountability Act, designed to cripple agency activities (U.S. PIRG's opposition letter).

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards has more information on the ongoing efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other special interests to mis-use deceptively labeled false flag, Trojan Horse bills purporting to create "jobs" or help "small business" or promote "start-ups" instead to roll back common sense health, safety and pocketbook protections by preventing their implementation. The goal of these bills is to make it impossible for federal agencies to prevent food poisoning outbreaks, factory explosions, health epidemics, air pollution or runs on banks.

Perhaps a clue toward their goals comes from the views of freshman Senator Thom Tillis (NC). Yesterday he said that "the market" was a better way to sort out restaurant hygiene than requiring employees to wash their hands before leaving the rest room. The consensus: he was serious.

U.S. PIRG and other CSS members strongly support reasonable transparency and cost-benefit requirements on agency rulemaking procedures. But in many cases, agencies already face unreasonable, burdensome and redundant requirements. The package of bills that the House is sending to the Senate aren't intended just to slow agencies from protecting the public if enacted; make no mistake, the goal is to kill health, safety and pocketbook protections.

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