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Regulatory freeze bill passes House

July 31, 2012

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In an update to what I wrote about in one of my posts from last week, a bill that would freeze government agencies’ ability to pursue new regulations has passed out of the House.

The Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act (H.R. 4078) – previously known as the Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act – passed out of the House July 26 in a largely partisan 245-172 vote.

The bill, now in the Senate, would stop federal agencies from promulgating regulations costing the economy more than $50 million* a year until the unemployment rate falls to or below 6 percent.

The House debated the legislation prior to the bill’s passage. Here are what a few Democrats had to say:

Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) brought up the ongoing problem of poor protections for occupational health hazards:

“What is absurd about their (Republicans) premise is that the Department of Labor, for example, would be unable to update the exposure safety standards to adequately protect the health of workers exposed to beryllium, a toxic substance linked to lung cancer and other chronic and fatal diseases, based on a 0.1 percent swing in the unemployment rate.”

Education and the Workforce Committee ranking member Rep. George Miller (D-CA) pointed out the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s current campaign to end “black lung” disease, including regulatory action:

“The facts are indisputable: Black lung is on the rise again, and some mine operators are exploiting loopholes and obsolete rules to evade compliance. The present system is badly broken, and the improvements are desperately needed. It’s time to move forward with modern protections based upon years of careful scientific study. Blocking efforts by the Mine Safety and Health Administration to modernize miner protections will only cost the lives, careers, and family income of those who go underground every day to provide the energy that this country needs.”

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) reflected on the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill that killed 11 workers in April 2010:

“As we approach the two-year anniversary of the worst environmental disaster in the history of our country – the BP oil spill – this misguided Republican bill would stop new safety standards from the blowout preventers on drilling rigs that could prevent future spills. This makes no sense. The safety of the American people should be put above the special interests that want to stop all of these regulations.”

As Republicans pointed out in the debate, waivers could be granted for rules needed to protect against an “imminent threat” to health and safety. But the bill would require those waivers to be approved by Congress, further politicizing the regulatory process.

Due to strong Democrat opposition, the bill has little chance of moving forward in the Senate or being signed by the president.

*The original bill’s threshold was $100 million, but an amendment, which was later approved, lowered the amount.

 

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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