I'm glad to see the GOP spreading its attention out a bit these days. As I've written recently, I think the single-minded pursuit of destroying Obamacare as a strategy coming into November's midterms has "loser" written all over it. I note that if not exactly following suit, my party's leadership is at least having similar misgivings, so it comes as no surprise to me that Republicans, including South Dakota's GOP reps in Congress along with GOP Senatorial candidate Mike Rounds, have brought a bill called The REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny) back into the political conversation.
Under the bill, both chambers of Congress would have to sign off on any federal rules that carry an annual price tag of $100 million or more. The REINS Act passed the House of Representatives on pretty much a party line vote last August, but apparently stands little chance of even coming to the floor of the United States Senate, where, according to Rounds in a recent essay, it will likely die in committee under the direction of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Rounds uses this as a pitch for gaining Republican control of the Senate, a state of political affairs that would be noticeably advanced if Rounds were elected to replace the retiring Democrat Tim Johnson.
That the bill itself would be a dead letter even if Pubs did take control of the Senate isn't much of an impediment to Rounds' pitch. No doubt the bill would be vetoed on arrival at the White House and there's virtually no chance that both houses of Congress would muster up the two-thirds majority necessary to override Barack Obama's veto. It's pure political theater to pursue this line of legislation, but it does have some value to the Republican cause, focusing as it does on the party's historic mission of reducing federal involvement in the day-to-day economic lives of Americans. (That the mission doesn't necessarily extend to keeping government out of personal lives and behaviors is a profoundly Republican problem that merits another post. For now I'll keep the discussion limited to the REINS Act.)
Besides some Constitutional issues raised by the bill--mainly due to the fact that it dilutes the executive authority of the Presidency--there's the mechanical requirement built into the proposal that's probably a deal breaker from the get-go. If Congress doesn't approve of a particular rule within a 70 day time limit, it is automatically rejected. Given all the political hurdles that Congressional agreements have to clear, that seems like a daunting task that effectively can kill federal rules by simply delaying any action on them. I'm not sure that even a Republican president would cede that much authority to Congress. Surrendering power is unbecoming to an executive at any level, much less the Presidency.
All that notwithstanding, though, Republicans are smart to put the REINS Act into this cycle's political hopper. For one thing, I'm pretty sure the country's business community is likely to close ranks behind it. As there hasn't been much evidence that Obamacare has stunted business and economic expansion since it was passed in 2010 and implemented last year, I'm thinking that my fellow biz types are getting a little squirmy about so much GOP attention centered on it. Going back to the basics is a good move for the party, especially here in South Dakota, where agricultural interests are frequently chafing under rules (e.g. The Clean Water Act) imposed on them by federal agencies. A bread-and-butter issue like this is likely to be a winner in these parts, and Pubs should pound on it with some gusto.