Ensuring Accountability in Agency Rulemaking Act

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 12, 2023
Location: Washington, DC
Keyword Search: Ensuring Accountability In Agency Rulemaking Act

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Mr. CLINE. Madam Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 922, I call up the bill (H.R. 357) to require the head of an agency to issue and sign any rule issued by that agency, and for other purposes, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

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Mr. CLINE. 357.

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Mr. CLINE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 357, the Ensuring Accountability in Agency Rulemaking Act. This bill will increase the accountability of policymakers in the executive branch. It is a matter of good governance that will benefit the American people.

This bill should not be controversial.

Madam Speaker, 3,168 is the number of final rules enacted by Federal agencies in 2022. During that same year, Congress passed just 247 laws. This statistic helps to illustrate just how much Federal law comes from unelected officials in the administrative state and not from Congress.

Moreover, under current law, some of the bureaucrats who initiate, enact, and enforce regulations lack direct political accountability. For example, according to one analysis, between 2001 and 2017, more than 70 percent of the rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services were issued by career employees. That number is more than 98 percent for the Food and Drug Administration over the same period. Ninety-eight percent of the rules issued by the FDA are issued by career employees and not by elected officials or by officials who were confirmed by the Senate. Nonetheless, they impose binding legal obligations on Americans.

This is not representative government working as it should. President Trump had a solution for reining in the rulemaking power of career bureaucrats. Executive order 13979 generally required notice-and- comment rules to be initiated and signed by executive branch officials who were politically accountable, not career civil servants. President Biden, however, revoked this policy within weeks of taking office.

H.R. 357, the Ensuring Accountability in Agency Rulemaking Act, would remedy this mistake. The bill generally requires that only politically accountable officials and not career bureaucrats initiate and issue regulations. By codifying this limitation on agency rulemaking authority, H.R. 357 helps to restore the accountability of the administrative state.

The bill will increase political accountability for Federal policymaking and restore the right of the American people to choose who governs them.

Madam Speaker, I urge passage of this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CLINE. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker, the gentleman from New York talked about the Senate having to waste its time confirming individuals to positions so that they can address these regulations, but the Senate needs to do their job. They need to advise and consent on the nominees from the administration.

The Senate has a means by which to address whatever challenges the gentleman raises, and the President also has the means by which to address these concerns through the process of recess appointments. Now that is not a very commonly used solution anymore, but the President does have that power. So there are ways to address the gentleman's concerns.

In addition, there is an exception to these requirements in the bill. If the head of an agency determines that compliance would impede public safety or security, all that needs to happen is for them to submit a notification disclosing the reasons for the exemption to the OIRA administrator in publishing the notification in the Federal Register.

Finally, I would state that the $14,684 figure is the amount per U.S. household each year that agency rules cost American families. That $14,000 is an amount that not a lot of families have right now thanks to the inflation that has been caused by the massive spending of the last Congress and the Biden administration.

To my recollection, 17 percent over the course of the Biden administration has been the cumulative inflation rate over the last 3 years.

This amount of money has hit especially hard, and we would do well to address that and keep that in mind as we seek to reduce the number of regulations that these bureaucracies are promulgating each and every day. We need to try and think of the American people first as we seek to legislate on their behalf here in the House of Representatives.

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Mr. CLINE. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for her remarks.

I want to point out that when she talks about water, we are all concerned about safe water, and that would qualify as an exemption under this bill if the head of the agency determined that compliance would impede public safety or security. They would only need to submit that notification and publish it in the Record.

I say that this bill does actually consider that circumstance. I also state that the letter the gentlewoman put into the Record is coming from an association of government employees who are the very bureaucrats having their powers removed by this bill. It makes sense that those who are being removed from the status quo would oppose the bill. It makes sense that those whose powers are being taken away to promulgate these regulations and impose these costs on American businesses and families would oppose this bill. I would be surprised if they didn't oppose the bill.

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Mr. CLINE. Madam Speaker, I appreciate the words of the gentleman and agree we are seeking to find common ground, even though I would oppose the motion to recommit. I would state that when the ranking member of the committee mentioned that the rules have to be promulgated by the senior appointee who has to be confirmed by the Senate, the initiation of the regulation need only be done by the senior appointee regardless as to whether they have been approved by the Senate. It is only before the actual rule would be prevented does the nominee have to be confirmed by the Senate. The process can begin by a senior appointee who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate, which would address some of the concerns about holding up nominees in the Senate.

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Mr. CLINE. Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 357, the Ensuring Accountability in Agency Rulemaking Act. As stated, this bill requires that only politically accountable officials, not career bureaucrats, initiate and issue regulations, the cost of which is hurting families across this country even as it seeks to help them through regulations.

The regulations often are meant to address health and safety concerns. Those would be given an exemption, but those other regulations that put costs on families, put costs on small businesses would be curbed unless they are signed off on by a senior official who has been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

This will increase political accountability for Federal policymaking and restore the rights of American people to choose exactly who governs them.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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