Thursday, April 17, 2014

GOP Support For The REINS Act Is Political Theater, But Pubs Are On The Right Track.

      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.
   
   

10 comments:

  1. The title of the bill is awfully hokey, maybe too cute. Nonetheless, it's patently partisan. If a Republican was president, Boner and the boys would not be considering pulling back on any REINS.

    All that being said, I am concerned about too much executive power. I was much more concerned with GWB/Cheney abuses. I disagreed with 99% of what they did, while I only disagree with about 65% of Obama's actions. I'd love a pres with whom I could be in 75% agreement!

    Even if the Congressional majority was opposed to the president's actions, big money can buy enough influence that the will of the people is ignored anyway. See gun control efforts following the slaughter of the little children in the Northeast.

    I don't see that the REINS act serves any real purpose other than political gamesmanship. Good thing we don't have anything that needs done in this country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The bill itself has no chance of survival, Deb, but it fills a political need and does move the discussion about limitations on executive power into the political marketplace. It's also nice to hear Republicans addressing something besides their visceral hatred of the Affordable Care Act. Pubs are talking a good show, but this is one of those "be careful what you wish for" initiatives because the tables could someday be turned with a Republican White House having its wings clipped by a Democratic congress. There's a whole lot of mid-term election posturing going on here.

      Delete
  2. John, sure would be nice if "pubs" would concentrate on some of the real problems this country faces, instead of stuff that makes no difference. None of the proposed problems the REINS act is supposed to fix were a problem to them when "W" was in office, and as Deb states, his transgressions far outweighed anything Obama has done. They need to concentrate on getting people decent jobs and wages, getting us out of unfunded wars and "police actions", stop trying to cut taxes for the rich on everybody else's back. It took bold action from democrats to get the ball rolling on decent health insurance for everybody, yet "pubs" still refuse to get on board and try to help make the law better. At what point will governing become the "pubs" priority again? How much more taxpayer money will the speaker and people like Issa waste obstructing and chasing nonexistent problems like Benghazi? And don't even get me started on all of the problems SD has that can be directly tied to 30 years of single party rule here. More governing and less politics is what we all need, still waiting on all politicians to figure that out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Republican problem coming into the midterms is that they really can't run against the economy, which is no great shakes but vastly improved since the debacle of a few years back, and they can't run against the deficit, which is a much smaller share of GDP than it was when O took office (3% vs. 9%), and they can't run against Obamacare, which is embraced by more and more Americans every month and has recently (per an ABC Washington Post poll I cited a few posts ago) gotten more support than opposition. The default position now is to turn against government overreach, which generally resonates among the base and will probably do them some good here in SD, even if it means political posturing as this REINS initiative demonstrates. Republicans have to have a compelling and cohesive political message (something like Newt's "Contract With America" from way back when) to convince voters that they're in favor of something, not just a party that exists to stop Obama's agenda. Until then, they're trying to make do with transparently anemic efforts like REINS, hoping it will be enough to pull voters their way.

      Delete
  3. John, you are a republican, I am a democrat. I am not a "radical, raving left side liberal", and based on your writing I don't believe you are a "radical, right side raving conservative". I believe we are both normal everyday people, and I would be willing to bet that a couple of moderate believing people such as ourselves, if we had all the information we needed, could come up with very workable solutions to every problem the state and federal governments have. The sooner our "leaders" in government figure this out, the better we all will be. If they can't get it, for whatever reason, then maybe they need to be replaced. For the record, I wouldn't include Rounds as a possible replacement as we already know where he stands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Level-headed pragmatists seem too few and far between these days, especially in contrast to the era when a President Ronald Reagan could work with a House Speaker Tip O'Neill--ideologically poles apart--and hammer out legislation that moved the country along. When Rounds speaks of bringing "South Dakota common sense" into the process while at the same time claiming that his state budgets were balanced suggests that he has nothing but contempt for common sense, which understands that balancing a budget by dipping into reserves is not balancing a budget. Given that Rounds still has to be considered the odds-on favorite to win the Senate seat, I suppose the best that can be accomplished on the common sense front is constantly calling attention to these inconsistencies and hoping that whoever wins that seat will understand that people back home are aware of the process and the rhetoric.

      Delete
  4. Sorry that I am late to this conversation. I wonder why Congress needs this bill to rein in Executive Branch overreach? Why haven't they taken the Presidents to court over the signing statements? That has been in existence for a long time, but both President Bush and President Obama have taken it to all new levels of ignoring the Constitution. In fact, truth be told, I would think that the Court could and should come down on this without a challenge from Congress.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The status quo has a lot of political value to it, Lanny. I doubt that either party wants a final resolution, assuming that it's possible to draw some kind of line between the distribution of powers. Kinda funny to watch the posturing switch from party to party, depending on who controls what branch during any given cycle.

      Delete
    2. "kinda funny" but also sad John. You were involved some 40 or more years ago in a situation where Congress abrogated its authority to declare war. It had been done some 15 or so years prior and has been an almost constant abrogation since. Actions within government, left unchallenged, have consequences and can change the Constitution without even going through the required steps to do so.

      Delete
    3. I'd say the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was probably the defining legislative screw-up of my generation. Considering that Congress abrogated its war-making powers I think its Constitutional implications were more easily isolated and easier to define than a measure like the REINS Act, which doesn't necessarily reconcile itself to clearly enumerated powers. In a way, REINS passage could serve a useful purpose because I'm confident a court test would follow, with a decision that more explicitly defines a President's powers and limitations when it comes to executing laws passed by Congress. I've reread the Constitution on this a few times recently, and there really are no parameters defining the reach and interpretation of the Executive Branch when it comes to institutionalizing laws that Congress turns over to the President. This is why I say the status quo will serve either party's political purposes and measures like the REINS Act are probably unlikely to become law. "Kinda funny" was a glib observation for me to make. "Sad," in your view, is a good summation of the situation. It is indeed sad that so much time and effort is wasted on measures that ultimately are pre-determined to go nowhere.

      Delete