Republicans in the Senate blocked Obama’s infrastructure and jobs bill today, and apparently are going to get a vote on their own alternative: the REINS act, which would require Congress to vote on all specific major regulations before they are enacted.
The problem with the REINS Act isn’t so much that it has nothing to do with actually creating jobs or the current economic crisis. The problem isn’t even, really, that there are very good and sensible reasons for why Congress passes general laws and then executive branch agencies draw up specific regulations to enforce those laws, and that making that process more cumbersome would create a real mess.
No, the real problem with the REINS act is that it’s not even remotely serious. If Republicans really believed that exec branch agencies are implementing particular laws in ways they do not like, they could propose new legislation to clarify the old; they could also do that if the problem, as they saw it, was that specific laws were poor ideas in the first place or have outlasted their usefulness.
This is just focus-group driven boilerplate, offered because presumably “government regulations” poll badly, at least among the people Republicans care about. The tip off, of course, is that their number one example of a poor regulation is entirely fictional.
Now, granted, it seems likely that Obama, too, closely studied the polls when deciding what to include in his jobs bill and how to pay for it. After all, each of the items (including taxes on the rich) is really popular! But there’s a difference. Obama was choosing among provisions that would achieve the policy goals he was interested in (that is, improving the economy and getting the unemployed back to work), while junk bills such as the REINS Act appear to be designed only to give their sponsors talking points.
The truth is that if Republicans really did care about specific regulations that they didn’t like they could offer to trade them for Democratic priorities — and it sure seems that there’s a good chance that the two sides could work out some sort of deal. By instead focusing on unworkable process reforms, not to mention legislating against fictional regulations, the GOP makes it clear that they don’t actually have policy goals that they’re willing to fight for — at least outside of taxes for wealthy folks). If you want to know why we’re beset with gridlock and stalemate, this is why.