The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission said yesterday that he favored more curbs on his agency's authority, including some type of legislative veto to check its rulemaking powers.
FTC Chairman James C. Miller III told a House Judiciary subcommittee that he favored a "regulatory veto" by which Congress, with participation of the president, could veto agency regulations that did not conform with the intent of Congress.
Last month the Supreme Court struck down the use of the legislative veto as unconstitutional. Some legislative proposals intended to meet the court's objections would provide for veto by both houses of Congress and the president.
In addition to the legislative veto, Miller, testifying on the proposed Regulatory Reform Act of 1983, suggested requiring his commission to present evidence backing up a new regulation before it is implemented.
"Legislative veto deals with agency action after it has been taken," Miller said. "Doesn't it make sense also to try to prevent ill-advised rulemaking before hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are spent, before millions of dollars in legal fees have been run up . . . and before Congress' time is spent considering a proposed FTC rule which happens to be flawed?"
Another regulator was less enthusiastic about the legislative veto. Nancy Harvey Steorts, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said, "History suggests that there is really no need for legislative veto provisions in our statutes, although we can function with a workable legislative veto provision."
Miller also said Congress should "refrain from imposing strictures on how this president or any future president might carry out his or her own program of managing the regulatory process."
Former FTC chairman and current commission member Michael Pertschuk criticized the proposed veto, saying in a written statement that Congress already controls agency rulemakings through its oversight and authorization functions and that the legislative veto "is not only an ill-conceived but also an unnecessary device for ensuring effective congressional oversight of the regulatory process. While it may be a convenient means of forcing Congress to act legislatively, Congress must also weigh the costs of significant delay and uncertainty which the veto entails."
"Constitutional questions aside, legislative veto has never been a good tool for disciplining agencies," Pertschuk said. "To the contrary, it threatens the integrity and the soundness of the rulemaking process itself. It gets Congress boggged down in trivia. It opens Congress to the spectacle of special interest groups pleading for congressional relief. It is at best, a crude tool which permits only an all-or-nothing decision on a regulation, even if the regulation is only objectionable to Congress in part . . ."
The legislative veto was created about 50 years ago when Congress gave President Herbert Hoover authority to reorganize executive branch agencies subject to its veto. The arrangement didn't become controversial until the 1970s, when a Democratic Congress, in reaction to the Vietnam war and President Nixon's refusal to spend appropriated funds, imposed a wave of new restrictions on the executive branch. The veto has been criticized by all recent presidents of both parties, including President Reagan.