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GOP eyes rules that firms say hurt jobs

On Monday, Obama will deliver a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the president recently issued an executive order calling for a government-wide "look back" to modify, streamline and eliminate excessive regulations.

"If there are rules on the books that are needlessly stifling job creation and economic growth, we will fix them," said Jen Psaki, deputy White House communications director. "But we have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of the American people, and rolling back regulations that ensure access to clean drinking water, protect children from lead poisoning and put in place a safe and secure financial system on the heels of the worst financial crisis in a generation is not a responsible approach to governing."

Over the past month, the administration withdrew proposals for two new regulations that businesses opposed. One would have strengthened workplace noise standards and the other would have required employers to record their workers' musculoskeletal injuries. Both were flagged in letters to Issa.

In their letters, business leaders express alarm about the slow pace of the economic recovery and what they characterize as the growing role government is playing in the private sector.

"Business owners remain on edge regarding the tidal wave of federal government regulation that has been advanced or proposed over the past two years. . . .The pain of the harsh recession was intensified and lengthened by this hyper-regulatory environment," Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, wrote in a Jan. 12 letter to Issa.

Murray Energy, a coal-mining company in Alledonia, Ohio, that employs 3,000 people, told Issa that the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas and clean air rules, those existing and those proposed, "must be stopped immediately."

"Jobs and lives are being destroyed by Mr. Obama and his out-of-control, radical U.S. EPA and his appointees to it," chairman and chief executive Robert E. Murray wrote. He concluded: "America, our industry and jobs, are under siege by Mr. Obama and his U.S. EPA."

Issa did not solicit comments about government regulations from traditional critics of the corporate world, including environmental groups, consumer advocates and labor unions.

In an interview Sunday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, voiced frustration that Issa's staff had not yet provided him with copies of the letters.

"We, too, are anxious to address regulations that might be out-dated or may be having an unreasonable impact on the production of jobs," Cummings said, but he added that Congress must weigh industry's desire to repeal regulations with environmental and public safety concerns.

"If just getting rid of regulations was the easy way to create jobs, it would've been done. These are very complex issues. . . .It's one thing to have a job, and it's another thing to know that there are regulations in place to make sure that you come home at the end of the day, that you're not harmed, and that American people are kept safe. That's the balance."

David Doniger, director of climate policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Issa effectively asked companies: "Send me your Christmas list, and I'll see what I can do."

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