A picture of Representative Jared Polis
Jared P.
Democrat CO 2

About Rep. Jared
  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 712, Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2015, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1155, Searching for and Cutting Regulations That Are…

    by Representative Jared Polis

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I thank the gentleman from Georgia for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.

    Over the holidays, like all Members of this body, I was back home and excited about coming back in January to legislate and move the country forward. I was hoping we could tackle some of the big issues of the day: balance a Federal budget; pass immigration reform and secure our borders; and, finally, deal with the contentious issue of what kind of authorization of military force we want to give to the Commander in Chief.

    These are all important issues I was thinking about and reading about and hoping we would deal with when we got back here. Instead, here we are, our first day back in session. And I point out that most Americans, of course, had to go back to work a couple of days ago. We had a few days more to presumably think about what we wanted to do.

    And here it is, another attempt to strip health care from over 22 million American families that rely on the healthcare insurance they have today that this reconciliation bill would take away and another attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and strip family planning and cancer screenings away from millions of women across the country, something that ultimately would add to healthcare costs, not to mention the human toll of not diagnosing cancers early, adding to the healthcare costs of this country by having to deal with far too many catastrophic events for what would have been preventable conditions, had they only been identified earlier through access to cancer screenings and family planning services at Planned Parenthood and other locations.

    {time} 1300 This bill that will be brought under one of the rules that is coming forward today would repeal or dismantle the Affordable Care Act for the 62nd time.

    Again, I was hoping 2016 we would start something new. Instead, I am seeing the same kind of bill that Republicans have brought forward in 2011; they brought it forward in 2012; they brought it forward in 2013; they brought it forward in 2014; they brought it forward in 2015; and here we are, not only bringing it forward in 2016, but doing it as one of the very first bills in the very first week that this Congress is back.

    Look, I rise in opposition to the rule and both of those underlying bills, H.R. 1155, which is called the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome, or SCRUB Act, and H.R. 712, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act. These bills will make the American people less safe, potentially removing important safety and health regulations that are already in place for a reason.

    The gentleman from Georgia says, and I agree, there certainly could be unnecessary regulations on the books. Let's tackle those in a laser- like fashion.

    And if the Chief Executive won't do it, then let's do it through a legislative approach that targets the authority for a specific set of rules that this body agrees are not necessary or are counterproductive, as we have done in a number of instances, and go after it, rather than somehow saying that, for every rule that is added arbitrarily, another rule needs to be eliminated, there is some presumed magic to the amount of words in rules.

    The gentleman cited, I think it was 86,000 pages. There is no ideal amount of rules. The least amount of rules and regs that can get the job of keeping the American people safe done is the best, but you never know what that is going to be, and maybe we should strip away 10,000 pages of that, and maybe we need another thousand pages for some new technology and new device that could hurt people if there is not the right safety regulations.

    We need an adaptive administrative structure to allow our health and safety agencies to do their job so that when people buy a consumer product at the store, they have confidence it is not going to kill them.

    As a father of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, when I buy a toy and get holiday presents for our kids, I want to make sure that those products don't have lead or contaminants in them, make sure that my child won't be severely damaged or hurt by the failure of our health and safety agencies to make sure that those products are safe.

    That is common sense. I think that is what the American people want out of our health and safety regulators, and these bills would impede their ability to do that.

    Thirteen of the 16 Democrats who sat on the Judiciary Committee offered dissenting views on H.R. 712, which read, in part: ``This ill- conceived bill imposes numerous new procedural burdens on agencies and courts, intended to dissuade them from using consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve enforcement actions filed to address agency noncompliance with the law.'' Effectively, what that means is this bill would reduce the cost of noncompliance with our regulations and laws. These burdens include the unworkable requirements that agencies solicit public comments on all proposed consent decrees and settlement agreements, and they respond to every single public comment before submitting them to the court.

    Now, again, that is an administrative burden that makes it impossible for our eight health and safety agencies to do their job. You might get 100,000 comments on a particular consent decree or settlement agreement, if somebody is ramping up what we call kind of the astroturf side of trying to get people to write in about a particular topic. And to say, somehow, that every single one of those comments has to be responded to before submitting to the court is basically, not just a policy that would slow down this process, but [[Page H32]] would deter agencies from ever engaging in settlement agreements and consent decrees because it would be so prohibitive, from a staff perspective, they would effectively be unable to do their job.

    Like all antiregulatory proposals that have been brought forth in this Congress, H.R. 712 is another solution in search of a problem. Those in favor of the bill have failed to provide evidence to support their claim that agencies are somehow conspiring with plaintiffs to enter into consent decrees and settlement agreements.

    But even if you agree with that claim, this bill wouldn't solve it. All it would do is impose burdensome procedural requirements on agencies and courts that hamstring and prevent the use of consent decrees and settlements which, oftentimes, are a more efficient way for both plaintiffs and defendants to get to a reasonable outcome than interminable processes and legal bills that go on for years and years.

    The other bill to be considered under this rule is another example of a bill that would make the American people less safe. It is called the SCRUB Act, which is also a dangerous solution in search of a problem.

    Now, every branch of the government already conducts effective oversight through retrospective review of agency rules. And again, if there are rules that this body disagrees with, we should go after them, go after the authority that this body has chosen to give the agency to make health and safety regulations that keep the American people safe.

    Each branch of government already conducts oversight and overlooking this array of options that would provide the necessary scalpel for smart regulatory cuts. This is, instead, a meat-cleaver approach that can eliminate health and safety regulations, both good and ill- informed.

    Rather than creating jobs, growing the economy or making Americans safer, this procedure would burden agencies with additional red tape and waste valuable agency resources and taxpayer dollars at the expense of the health and safety of the American people.

    As my colleagues have alluded to, H.R. 1155's sole purpose is to actually obstruct the safety and regulatory process by burying agencies in endless red tape and extra costs. It would create legal ambiguity that could lead to increased cost for businesses, for local communities that rely on certainty to plan for the future, as well as uncertainty for consumers and American families who don't know that the products or services that they are buying are safe for them or their children.

    Now, in principle, it is hard to argue against the notion that agencies should periodically assess whether rules they have implemented should be improved or repealed, and I agree with that concept. That is not in dispute. That is not what this bill is about.

    Rather than streamlining rulemaking, or eliminating unnecessary rules, which we all want to do, through a thoughtful, retrospective review process, even if it is required periodically, this bill, instead, would result in years of delays for new and necessary health and safety rules by requiring a new rulemaking process for any rule that is eliminated.

    The SCRUB Act would also establish a regulatory review commission to identify duplicative, redundant, or potentially obsolete regulations. Now, not only would the very creation of this commission be at the cost of taxpayers, as would its limitless resources, hours of staff work that the bill mandates, but the authorizing language of the commission binds it to consider only the costs to affected industries, while ignoring the cost to the general public.

    So, if an industry, if this commission existed, and they were looking at a regulation around dumping of toxic materials or toys that could hurt kids, the only charge under this statute of that commission would be what are the costs of compliance of this to industry, not what are the savings to American families who won't have to worry about their kid being hospitalized because of a choking hazard for a 3-year-old, or increased cancer rate for a product that contains lead or a carcinogenic agent. They can't look at that side of the equation.

    Rather than to do a thorough cost-benefit analysis, this kangaroo commission would rather superficially look at the cost to companies of making sure that their products are not dangerous to the American people. That is the wrong way to go about this.

    Simply put, the SCRUB Act is a solution in search of a problem. There are many tools available to each branch of government to conduct effective oversight and make smart regulatory cuts. I think it is a fine criticism of any administration that they haven't done enough in that regard, and they should. And this body should encourage any President to move forward with cutting unnecessary regulations that cost businesses money and don't threaten the public health and safety.

    But agencies must adhere to the robust requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act already, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Congressional Review Act, and if some of those can be consolidated, along with new ideas to cut red tape and regulation, you will find strong bipartisan support for that concept.

    But that is not what this bill does. This bill ties up the ability of our agencies that this Congress has authorized to help keep the American people and American families safe with additional red tape and regulations. It creates a biased commission that, rather than looking at the costs and benefits of health and safety requirements, only looks at the costs.

    Moreover, final regulations are subject to review by Federal courts already, who are a final backstop to ensure that agencies have not violated the authority that this body has given them, and that they have satisfied all the applicable statutes, and whether agencies have continued input from relevant stakeholders. We have set that process up.

    Now, if we have a thoughtful way to improve that process, around encouraging more stakeholder involvement, looking at the authority that we have given each agency in certain areas, by all means, let's discuss those kinds of bills, rather than short-circuiting the very process that Congress has put in place to help reduce unnecessary regulations.

    In many cases, Congress not only mandates that agencies issue a rule, they are doing the work that we have required them to do, but we also prescribe the process already by which they must do so.

    This bill, if it passes, will continue to waste the government's time, and we are wasting more by even considering this today, as well as this reconciliation bill that would take healthcare coverage away from 22 million Americans.

    You would think, Mr. Speaker, that if Republicans were bringing forward a bill to remove healthcare insurance from 22 million Americans, you would think that they would have a plan for those 22 million Americans, but they do not. They simply strip them of their existing health care.

    Twenty-two millions Americans will not be able to see their doctor that they have been seeing for years, know that they can go to the hospital if they need it, or have any adequate health insurance under this reconciliation bill.

    It defunds Planned Parenthood. It strips affordable planning and lifesaving cancer screenings away from millions of women across the country, precisely at the time that those cancer screenings would be more necessary than ever, if the SCRUB Act passed, which would hamstring our own Federal agencies in their ability to prevent carcinogenic agents from being in consumer products and food products that American people consume.

    So, again, through these set of bills, the Republicans are saying: We are going to not do the job that we have told our agencies to do in keeping the American people safe; and, at the same time, the results of that lack of safety--more hospital visits, more disease, more sickness, more children choking, more sick kids--we are going to make sure that a lot more of them don't have health care when they need it because of the health and safety regulations that we have removed through tying them up in red tape for years after years.

    That is not what the American people want. That is not what my constituents want.

    I strongly encourage my colleagues to oppose the rule and the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

    [[Page H33]]

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