Bill to ‘scrub’ government red tape clears House

The House on Thursday passed a bill to cut agency regulations, despite opposition from Democratic leadership and the White House.

The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act, which passed in a 245-174 vote, would set up a watchdog commission to review and remove outdated agency regulations.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) also requires agencies to go through all regulations within the last decade and flag unneeded provisions for removal.

“175,268 pages of federal regulations are stifling economic growth and opportunity in this country. The SCRUB Act sets up a process to finally review and get off the books and out of the way many of these outdated, burdensome, duplicative and unnecessary regulations,” Smith said Jan. 7, following passage of the bill.

In a Jan. 5 statement, the White House said Smith’s bill takes too much decision-making authority away from agencies.

“While retrospective review is an administration priority and an essential tool to relieve unnecessary regulatory burden, it is important that retrospective review efforts not unnecessarily constrain an agency’s ability to provide a timely response to critical public health or safety issues, or constrain its ability to implement new statutory provisions,” the statement said. “For these reasons, the administration strongly opposes H.R. 1155 in its current form.  If the President were presented with the current version of H.R. 1155, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”

President Barack Obama signed two executive orders since 2011 that require agencies to biannually report their progress on rolling back old regulations.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said the SCRUB Act gets in the way of the regulation-cutting process it claims to improve.

“This bill attempts to reduce bureaucracy by creating a new commission that would cost taxpayers $30 million to do what agencies and Congress are already doing,” Cummings said on the House floor. “The commission would have virtually unlimited authority to subpoena witnesses or documents. This means that it could compel an individual to testify on any subject. A schoolteacher could be compelled to testify about education rules, or a senior citizen could be compelled to testify about Medicare or Social Security rules.”

Groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, have voiced their support for the SCRUB Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) congratulated Smith following the bill’s passage.

“A thorough review of federal regulations holding back opportunity in this country is long overdue,” Ryan said. “This legislation provides an important check on a lame duck White House intent on pushing through more rules, regulations and executive orders inconsistent with the will of the American people.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also spoke on the merits of Smith’s bill during the floor debate.

“Regulations can be necessary to ensure health and safety. But excessive and outdated regulations only serve to divert limited resources to efforts that waste time and money,” Chaffetz said. “This bill provides the opportunity for tremendous savings for government agencies and the public at large.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.