The REINS Act is a perfect example of the political rule that legislation tends to be named in direct contradiction of its actual impact. When they passed the REINS Act, H.R. 26, in the House of Representatives last week, Republican politicians described it as an act of “regulatory accountability”. In fact, the REINS Act will destroy regulatory accountability if it becomes law.
The REINS Act is designed to sabotage government accountability to voters because it creates a massive roadblock to obstruct the rulemaking authority that Congress has granted to federal agencies over many generations of democratic process. It doesn’t aim at problematic rules, but rather disables the ability of almost the entire federal government to implement the will of the people expressed through Congress in order to adapt to changing conditions.
Congressional legislation works to protect Americans from abusive corporate power by establishing rulemaking authority in the Executive Branch. Federal agency rules aren’t violations of the will of the people. These rules are expressions of the will of the people, because they’re mandated through acts of Congress. As the Office of Management and Budget explains, “When a Federal agency promulgates a major rule, it must already adhere to the particular requirements of the statute that it is implementing and to the constraints imposed by other Federal statutes and the Constitution. Indeed, in many cases, the Congress has mandated that the agency issue the particular rule.” Government accountability to the people will become practically impossible once the REINS Act becomes law, because legislation can’t reflect the will of the people if it isn’t put into action through the creation of executive rules.
What does the REINS Act have to do with Donald Trump?
Donald Trump’s purpose in seeking the power of the presidency, as he himself stated it, was to destroy the power of the American federal government to meaningfully regulate big business. Trump pledged on the campaign trail to ensure that for every new rule protecting Americans from abusive corporations, an old rule would have to be destroyed. The REINS Act does precisely that, and has earned Trump’s fervent support.
“I will sign the REINS Act should it reach my desk as President and more importantly I will work hard to get it passed,” Trump declared on December 30.
Doesn’t the REINS Act just give the Congress the equivalent of the President’s veto power?
No. The REINS Act isn’t a veto power. It’s a blanket block on all new rules. Furthermore, it requires that federal agencies arbitrarily destroy existing protections for children, families, and communities regardless of whether those protections are effective or not.
Besides, the Constitution, which established a carefully balanced system of interlocking powers were designed specifically without a veto power in Congress. If the REINS Act becomes law, it will tilt the Constitution’s checks and balances out of balance, sabotaging the federal government’s ability to represent the will of the people.
When the Office of Management and Budget evaluated the REINS Act, it warned, “This radical departure from the longstanding separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches would delay and, in many cases, thwart implementation of statutory mandates and execution of duly-enacted laws, create business uncertainty, undermine much-needed protections of the American public, and cause unnecessary confusion.”
Isn’t the REINS Act a tool for members of Congress to disable only those federal rules that are causing problems?
No. The REINS Act is a blunt instrument intended simply to destroy the ability of the federal government to enforce existing legislation approved by Congress. It’s an attempt to take the power away from ALL past legislation that protects Americans from abusive corporations, and to give corporations the upper hand in their attempt to evade accountability.
The REINS Act establishes an impractical timeline for Congress to act in order to allow a rule protecting Americans from corporate abuse to go through – just 70 days. Congress almost never passes anything in just 70 days, and that’s the point.
The Republicans in Congress have been trying to shut down the American federal government for years, to impose a neo-Confederate, pro-corporate, fascist alternative in which the national government breaks down, and state legislatures and corporations fill the power vacuum. With the passage of the REINS Act, all the Republicans have to do is wait, and watch the federal government fall apart.
Doesn’t the REINS Act just provide democratic accountability to the system?
No. The REINS Act is a fundamentally fascist piece of legislation, because it takes power away from democratically elected government, and places it in the hands of antidemocratic corporations.
The REINS Act is inherently undemocratic because it makes it nearly impossible for the federal government to act – either through Congress or through the Executive Branch – in response to popular demand. It doesn’t strengthen the Legislative Branch. It merely weakens the federal government as a whole, without distinction between good government and bad.
Who needs the federal government, anyway?
You do, if you don’t want your drinking water contaminated with lead, mercury, and other toxins. The House Republicans specifically voted down amendments to the REINS Act that would have preserved the ability of the federal government to protect communities’ drinking water from pollution with lead and other hazardous substances.
You do need the federal government, if you don’t want your babies drinking tainted formula from their bottles. Congressional Republicans specifically voted to kill an amendment to the REINS Act that would have allowed the federal government to continue to protect children under the age of two from deadly threats.
You need the federal government just to keep you alive if you’re a coal miner. The REINS Act will eventually shut down the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which sets guidelines for mine workers to prevent dangerous conditions from becoming deadly. Before the MSHA began its work, deadly coal mine accidents were commonplace. Congressional Republicans voted against an amendment to the REINS Act that would have allowed for the MSHA to continue its work of protecting miners. The GOP Congress is so zealous about granting new powers to coal company bosses that it’s throwing the coal miners under the bus.
Federal government agencies aren’t perfect, but they’re established through a democratic process, so that we the people of the United States can fix them when necessary. The REINS Act will take away that democratic process, and wreck American democracy in the process. In the aftermath of this destruction, the only people holding power will be corporate executives and wealthy families – people like the Trumps.
We’ve all seen how poorly the Trumps treat their employees, regularly cheating them out of their hard-earned wages.
If the REINS Act becomes law, our country’s checks and balances will fall apart, and we will all be placed in the frightening position of people working for Donald Trump, with no one on our side to protect us.