First, let me thank Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) for compiling their bill into a simple three-page summary, found here. Not wading through acres of “i) strike ‘and’ in subsec. d. and ii) replace with ‘or’” or whatever is refreshing. The blogosphere owes you one. So do observers of the legislative process for your idea not to give more power to Congress, which would be a good idea if not for all the morons.
The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act would empower the White House to require that all independent government agencies – including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – perform full cost-benefit analyses of all new rules and work to minimize their negative economic impacts. They counted 58 such rules, only one of which had a full analysis. Identifying those rules would have been helpful, though.
You might worry about the administration of the day getting too close to these entities, and that’s a legitimate worry: Part of the bill would require rules with impacts in excess of $100 million to be vetted by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. If the White House in particular is stacked with former Wall Streeters or other ex-insiders, as it typically is, I wouldn’t trust them with those rules. Same goes for a White House stacked with those who seek to drown the government in a bathtub.
The cost-benefit mandate is something different. Previous presidents, Ronald Reagan among them, have achieved that kind of authority over the Treasury and Commerce departments, not even having to go through Congress to do it; they did it with executive orders. It’s worth noting that the Federal Reserve is exempt from this legislation, however. Let the caterwauling from the bathtub-drowners commence.
For you government efficiency fans who fear more backlog as a result of having to carry out these analyses: It actually might help to speed up the process. The Dodd-Frank law, for one, has “encountered significant delays” due to the financial industry’s legal challenges. Had regulators presented them with a) a full cost-benefit analysis and b) proof that they explored alternatives and found them lacking, some of those challenges may have been tempered.
Except for the White House vetting, this bill could help create the more stable regulatory environment sought by its authors, with a minimal amount of legal or political tug-of-war. But the Fed’s rules should be thought out in full as well.