Cummings Opposes Bill that Would Jeopardize Public Health and Safety
Washington, DC (Feb. 28, 2014)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, spoke on the House Floor in opposition to legislation that would give private industry an unfair advantage over the public in the rulemaking process.
The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (H.R. 899) would require agencies to consult with private industries before consumers and other stakeholders before proposing regulations.
“We rely on agency rulemakings to protect our children, protect our workers, and protect our economy,” said Cummings. “I believe that businesses should have the opportunity to provide comments on proposed rules. They should do it through the normal public comment process, however, just like other stakeholders.”
H.R. 899 would change current law to allow regulated industries to abuse expanded judicial review and tie up rules in litigation for years; allow regulated industries to go before a court to seek review of the adequacy of analyses prepared by agency experts; and compromise the independence of independent regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Several organizations sent letters opposing this legislation, including The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards—a group of more than 150 good government, labor, scientific, faith, health, and community organizations—which wrote: “Congress should be moving forward to protect the public from harm, not rolling back the clock and weakening important safeguards.”
Below are Ranking Member Cummings’ remarks, as prepared for delivery on the House Floor today, and the video of his speech:
Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I rise in opposition to H.R. 899, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act.
This bill is the second major piece of legislation being considered this week that will add needless and counterproductive red tape to the rulemaking process.
I have the privilege of serving as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The Oversight Committee has jurisdiction over the Executive Branch and legislative jurisdiction over government wide polices. It is our duty and our responsibility to ensure that the federal government is operating effectively and efficiently. It is also the responsibility of every Member of Congress.
This legislation may be well intended, but it would have unintended consequences that would make the government less efficient and less effective.
We rely on agency rulemakings to protect our children, protect our workers, and protect our economy. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, a group of more than 150 good government, labor, scientific, faith, health, and community organizations, sent a letter to the Oversight Committee. Here is just a portion of what that letter said, and I quote:
The Wall Street economic collapse, the British Petroleum oil spill catastrophe, various food and product safety recalls, and numerous industrial disasters including the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, have all dramatically demonstrated the need for a stronger regulatory system that is more responsive to the public interest. Congress should be moving forward to protect the public from harm, not rolling back the clock and weakening important safeguards.
Mr. Chairman, now is not the time for us to be adding unnecessary and burdensome requirements to the rulemaking process. Our constituents expect us to help make them safer—not to make it harder for agencies to keep them safe.
This bill would give private industry an unfair advantage in the rulemaking process. Under this bill, agencies would be required to consult with the corporations before consulting with the consumers who would be protected by the regulations. In fact, the bill requires agencies to consult with private industry, quote, “before issuance of a proposed rulemaking.”
This means that, for example, if the Department of Agriculture planned to propose a new food safety rule, corporate agricultural interests would get advance access to the rule—and the opportunity to shape it—before food safety groups, children’s health groups, doctors, or independent scientists are able to participate in the process.
I believe that businesses should have the opportunity to provide comments on proposed rules. They should do it through the normal public comment process, however, just like other stakeholders.
This bill also would put independent agencies in jeopardy of political interference. The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act currently exempts independent agencies from its reporting requirements. This bill removes that exemption.
That would mean that independent regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission would have to submit their rules to the Office of Management and Budget for review, which could undermine their independence.
I plan to offer an amendment to strike that provision and I hope it will be adopted.
This is a well-intended bill with serious, negative consequences. I urge my colleagues to oppose it.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.