George F. Will’s Feb. 16 op-ed, “How to stop a trade war,” which defended the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (Reins) Act, took a shot at the federal agency rulemaking process.
Mr. Will made it sound as if “unaccountable and secure bureaucrats” were unilaterally issuing regulations. But agencies may issue regulations only if they are authorized to do so by Congress. Many of the regulations that agencies issue are mandated by statute, sometimes by specified deadlines.
Also, agencies did not issue 97,110 pages of regulations last year. The 2016 version of the Federal Register may have had that many pages, but they were not all regulations. Some are just notices that information is available to the public. Even when agencies do issue regulations, they usually provide many, many pages of explanation for each page of regulations adopted. These explanations have been ordered by Congress and the courts and have salutary purposes. They respond to public comments on proposed rules, enhancing meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process. And they provide useful guidance on what the regulations mean and how compliance can be achieved. These aspects enhance, not detract from, accountability.
Finally, agencies can be held accountable by courts, which are empowered to reverse agency regulations that are unauthorized or are not supported by adequate reasoning.
Robert Glicksman, Bethesda