Republicans' aversion to government regulation is well-known and longstanding. But with the GOP back in charge in the House of Representatives, there's a renewed offensive against the thousands of federal rules that affect how business is done.
This latest deregulatory push got into full swing Thursday at a House hearing — a kind of warm-up for a more lengthy debate on the House floor.
The hearing's title was suggestive: "Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation." Darrell Issa (R-CA), the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, noted it was taking place in the same week as the 100th anniversary of the birth of former President Ronald Reagan — one of the nation's all-time regulatory foes.
"So I think it's appropriate that we remind us that regulatory impediments to job creation are not a new phenomenon or a new challenge for America," Issa said.
But the panel's top Democrat, Maryland's Elijah Cummings, questioned the validity of a hearing that focused only on the costs of regulations and not at all on their benefits.
"We need to base our conclusions on facts instead of rhetoric," he said. "The country lost 8 million jobs during this recession, primarily because the financial industry was inadequately regulated for decades, not because of over-regulation."
'We're Just Not Going To Do It'
The first panel of witnesses was made up entirely of businesspeople who chafed at regulations they called a drag on their operations. The complaints were largely about regulations not yet in effect.
Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers decried the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by power plants.
"Some people believe that massively high energy costs are a good thing, but manufacturers, who use a third of the electricity generated in this country, tend to believe otherwise," Timmons said.
That prompted questions to the panel from Kentucky Democrat John Yarmuth: "Any of you want to see the EPA eliminated? Anyone want to see the Clean Air Act repealed?"
Not one of them said yes.
Wisconsin manufacturer Michael Fredrich complained of the so-called employer mandate in the new health care law, a provision that takes effect three years from now. It requires that employers with 50 employees or more provide health insurance.
"We have 60 employees, I will tell you, and we're hiring more. I think we'll be at 70 by the end of the year. If this ... mandate goes through, we will have 49 employees. And we will not have more. Because we're not going be subject to this law," he said. "We're just not going to do it."
A Rush To Roll Back?
Sidney Shapiro of the Center for Progressive Reform was the only one of the eight witnesses to question the rush to roll back regulations.
"Although it's clear that regulated entities do not always like regulation, this does not mean that regulation is the cause or even a contributor to our economic and unemployment woes," Shapiro said. "The evidence to back up this claim is simply not there."
Meanwhile, on the House floor, Texas Republican Pete Sessions brought up a bill that takes wide aim at federal regulations.
"The legislation before us today calls for 10 House committees to review existing, pending and proposed regulatory orders from agencies of the federal government, particularly with respect to their effects on destroying jobs and economic growth," Sessions said.
House Democrats dismissed the measure as nothing more than telling committees to do what they are already supposed to be doing — keeping a close eye on the federal government. Still, Republicans insisted on holding a nearly 10-hour debate to highlight their new offensive.