House GOP targets Obama regulations

Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 7, 2011

House Republicans are scrutinizing a wide array of existing and proposed Obama administration regulations in areas as diverse as the environment and Wall Street, and they are taking guidance from industry groups that say the rules threaten jobs.

Responding to solicitations from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), businesses have asked Congress to roll back or preempt more than 150 rules governing their industries, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

In many cases, businesses are seizing the opportunity to reopen regulatory debates that they previously lost. In his new role as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa will begin a series of hearings Thursday, an effort aimed at fulfilling the new GOP House majority's goal of making federal regulations friendlier to business.

The Post reviewed more than 200 letters and reports that businesses sent to Issa targeting regulations across the federal government. The rules under scrutiny include familiar issues suchas greenhouse gas emissions, health-care reform and the landmark Wall Street overhaul. But the committee also will examine more obscure regulations. For instance, makers of some cleaning products that remove mold and mildew have asked the committee to reconsider rules that require their products to be registered as pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

Among those pushing for changes are some of Washington's most powerful interest groups.

The Business Roundtable, a coalition of chief executive officers from major corporations, voiced concern about a swath of requirements, including executive pay disclosures. Smaller interests have also weighed in, such as the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, which flagged a regulation restricting formaldehyde in pressed wood.

In December, as he prepared to assume the chairmanship of the oversight panel, Issa asked industry groups to identify regulations that "have negatively impacted job growth." He said the probe is "a starting point for the broader discussion that will unfold about the regulatory barriers to job creation.

These aren't judgments or recommendations from a congressional committee, but rather information from job creators about regulations they see as flawed and harmful to job creation and economic recovery."

In their responses to Issa, many of the industry groups broadly said that government regulations would cost jobs but did not back up their claims with evidence.

Issa's committee can turn a spotlight on the regulations, but it does not have the power to overturn or change them.

The regulatory scrutiny poses a test for President Obama as he prepares for a 2012 reelection campaign in which jobs and the economy will be major issues. The administration and congressional Democrats could choose to draw a contrast with Republicans by defending regulations intended to protect public health and safety, environmental quality and consumer and investor interests. Or they could seek common ground with the business community.

The White House has tried to strike a balance, as Obama and his new chief of staff, former corporate executive William M. Daley, have begun a campaign to patch up relations with the corporate world.

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