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Pat R.
Republican KS

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  • Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Senator Pat Roberts

    Posted on 2015-01-13

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    ROBERTS (for himself, Ms. Ayotte, Mr. Barrasso, Mr. Blunt, Mr. Coats, Mr. Crapo, Mrs. Fischer, Mr. Grassley, Mr. Hatch, Mr. Isakson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Murkowski, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Sessions, Mr. Wicker, Mr. Tillis, and Mr. Toomey): S. 168. A bill to codify and modify regulatory requirements of Federal agencies; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

    Mr. ROBERTS. I rise today to talk about a problem that affects virtually every American, and that would be government regulations; to be more accurate, government overregulation.

    Let me point out something. In 2014, the administration issued 3,541 rules in 1 year. That cost $181 billion. The first week of this new year brought us 35 new rules which added another 1,326 pages to the Federal Register. I would urge people back home in the business community or any other endeavor in which they are bothered by regulations to read the Federal Register as opposed to the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record deals with natural gas. The Federal Register deals with facts and regulations.

    Yet just last night we learned that President Obama has threatened to veto a significant regulatory reform proposal now being considered by the House of Representatives. It is interesting to me that the President is now threatening to veto his own ideas. Back in January of 2011, President Obama issued an Executive Order. It was entitled ``Improve Regulation and Regulatory Review.'' That is in quotes. Unfortunately, despite claims otherwise, the Executive order has largely been ignored.

    My bill takes this order and gives it the force of law. My bill would require that all regulations put forth by the current and future administrations consider the economic burden on American businesses and ensure stakeholder input during the regulatory process, thus promoting innovation and new jobs.

    Just as the President said in his order, this egregious assault on our economy must stop; it must end.

    Like many of my colleagues, I have had a longstanding concern with the regulatory process. Like other States, from every corner of Kansas, the No. 1 topic of concern for all businesses, including agriculture, energy, small shops on Main Street, healthcare, education, lending-- virtually every enterprise is harmed by overly burdensome and costly regulations. Whether it is the EPA'S Waters of the United States proposed rule or listing of the infamous lesser prairie chicken as an endangered species, the public is losing faith in our government.

    Obamacare is a prime example of this administration's vast regulatory overreach. The bill, as signed into law by the President, as most of us know, was no short read. It was over 2,000 pages. But as the rollout continues, the administration has now expanded Obamacare into over 24,000 pages of regulations in the Federal Register.

    Here is one example of the overly intrusive regulations this administration used the Affordable Health Care Act to implement. It is Health and Human Services' mandate requiring religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and emergency contraceptives.

    Last year the U.S. Supreme Court had to intervene and determine that the HHS mandate placed an excessive burden on the religious freedom of owners of family business.

    Regrettably, costly and intrusive regulations are not limited to HHS and Obamacare and CMS and all of those regulations. Not to be outdone by HHS, the Environmental Protection Agency has its own set of overly burdensome regulations.

    Let's take the proposed Waters of the United States rule. For example, as the distinguished Senator from Arkansas knows, this proposal has caused a firestorm of opposition all throughout farm country. The EPA claims that the proposed Waters of the United States rule simply clarifies their scope of jurisdiction.

    Well, therein lies the problem.

    Farmers and ranchers do not believe it. I don't believe it. They fear the rule would allow the EPA to further expand its control of private property under the guise of the Clean Water Act.

    If finalized, this rule could have the EPA requiring a permit for ordinary field work, construction of a fence, or even planting crops near certain waters.

    Kansans are justifiably worried the permits would be time consuming, costly, and that the EPA could ultimate deny the permits, even for longstanding and normal cropping practices.

    This is another prime example of why many Kansans feel their way of life is under attack by the Federal Government's overreach and overregulation. Simply put, they feel ruled, not governed.

    Let's not forget the burdensome carbon regulations now being proposed by the EPA. Over the last 6 years, this administration's EPA has pursued an agenda that can only be described as a war on fossil fuels and coal.

    Just last week, in fact, the EPA announced that by June of this year it would finalize carbon reduction rules for both new and existing powerplants. That is going to be a move that will drive up the energy cost for all Kansans, all Americans, hoping to heat their homes during extremely cold winters or hot summers such as the ones we are experiencing now.

    This decision, which the EPA itself admitted would do nothing to reduce global temperature if similar plans are not adopted by Russia, China, India and Brazil, will have unbelievable costs. According to a recent study about the American Action Forum which cites the administration's own estimates these rules are anticipated to cost industry $8.8 billion to comply. That translates into a 6-percent rise in electricity prices. Sadly, these regulations will hurt low-income individuals the most--folks who can least afford it and who spend a greater percentage of their income to heat their homes and feed their families.

    Now let's look at what the Department of Labor is trying to do with President Obama's pen-and-paper dictates. Currently the Department of Labor has a regulation to eliminate the companion care exemption put forth by this body 40 years ago. This important exemption allows seniors and the disabled community access to affordable in-home care. If eliminated, those who need in-home care the most, and their families, would be forced to determine which hours are the most crucial in the day they receive assistance. In addition, caregivers who currently work over 40 hours would see their hours and paychecks cut because of this rule.

    As the Department of Labor issued this rule and geared up for implementation on January 1 of this year, benefit recipients, individual States, and Members of this Chamber stood together to shine a light on the negative effects this would have on communities all across the Nation.

    At the same time, a judge issued a partial determination on this regulation, and he stated the following: The fact that the Department issued its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking after all six of these bills failed to move is nothing short of yet another thinly-veiled effort to do through regulation what could not be done [[Page S204]] through legislation. Such conduct bespeaks an arrogance to not only disregard Congress's intent but seize unprecedented authority to impose overtime and minimum wage requirements in defiance of the plain language of Section 213. It cannot stand.

    My legislation addresses these abuses. Far too often the good intentions of regulations lead to job loss and red-tape that strangles business. Worse still, the agenda of bureaucrats drives bad policies and stifles economy.

    I have a solution. My comprehensive bill requires agencies to promote economic growth and job creation by ensuring the benefits outweigh the cost of regulations. It is as simple as that.

    We need to be listening to the folks as well who have to live with and pay for the effects of these rules. I am hearing from stakeholders that they are weighing the time and expense of responding to regulations against the fact that this administration keeps giving them the minimum allowable time and then doesn't even consider their input. Bottom line, fewer Americans are bothering to participate in the comment period process.

    Stakeholder input is crucial and needs to be considered. Right now, time varies on how long the comment period stays open. Sometimes it is as little as 2 weeks. My bill would ensure the period stay open for at least 60 days. My colleagues, as we all well know, sometimes the people who are most affected by these rules don't even know they are subject to the changes.

    My bill would mandate that agencies provide warnings, appropriate default rules, and disclosure requirements to the public. Right now, just the opposite takes place. The administration skirts stakeholder input by issuing interim final rules--called IFRs--and they become effective immediately upon publication. My bill allows delay of implementation if that rule is challenged in court and until the court makes a decision. All too often new regulations are proposed and finalized while existing regulations are not being enforced.

    I have heard from a lot of folks in Kansas that the problems these new regulations claim to fix could be solved if the current regulations were properly monitored. Simply put, the solution is not more rules and regulations; it is considering the existing ones.

    My bill mandates an ongoing review of regulatory actions to identify those outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome rules--or, as the President himself once put it, ``rules that are just plain dumb''--and allows agencies to streamline, expand, or repeal those regulations.

    We need regulatory reform. My bill codifies the President's Executive order while closing the loopholes and gives it the rule of law. I do not know how the President could disagree with that.

    The U.S. Chamber, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Farm Bureau, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have all endorsed my bill.

    Last year I had 35 cosponsors. We have about thirteen. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and stay engaged as this process continues.

    ______ By Mr. LEAHY: S. 169. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to disallow any deduction for punitive damages, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.

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