WASHINGTON, July 7, 2011 – What was originally billed as a federal agency confessional before House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Thursday turned into a search to create American jobs and economic growth.
Monday, the subcommittee held its fourth hearing to improve the regulatory review system. With the national unemployment rate at 9.1 percent, burdensome regulations from federal agencies are seen by both sides of the aisle and agency representatives to contribute to the problem. An Executive Order the President issued in January sought to streamline federal agencies by having them do a retrospective review of existing regulations and discard those they determined outdated and unnecessary.
Members questioned independent federal agencies – including the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission – that did not comply with the 120-day timeframe of the Executive Order, although the represented agencies were not required by law to do so.
“I don’t think as ever in my experience there has been such a distinguished group of people that could make an impact on deregulation in America as you folks today,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL). “It is within your power to deregulate and get rid of burdensome regulations which would spur the economy, so we’re not talking about something insignificant.”
Rep. Stearns said he is currently considering updating the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 to fit the current regulatory environment.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) stated burdensome federal regulations costs over $15,000 dollars to the American family in 2008, according to a 2010 report by the Small Business Administration.
“All of the other things that get in the way [the American family] can manage, but it seems that the federal regulations have become the biggest burden to creating jobs in America today.”
Subcommittee minority members, however, where not impressed by the majority’s past efforts in this series of hearings.
“These hearings have devolved into forums for questioning health, environment, and consumer protection law that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle find objectionable,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, in his opening statement. “These sessions also have been marked by a lopsided focus on costs with no seeming consideration of benefits. And they have not resulted in any substantial legislation or important oversight findings.”
Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) was quick to point out that even though the represented agencies understood the Executive Order to not apply to them, they were still conducting reviews of their regulations.
“Sometimes these regulations actually came from some scientific basis and it is going to take some really hard work to fix it,” said DeGette.
In a letter submitted to the Subcommittee, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that since 2009, the Commission has eliminated over 50 outdated regulations, and identified 25 sets of data collections from industry that are no longer necessary.
Agency witnesses testified that their regulations are made to enforce the legislation Congress enacts, and members agreed that since agencies only have the authority to do what Congress tells them to do then some of the legislation is at fault for the regulatory burdens under question.
Witnesses from the FCC and FTC also stated that the Executive Order was too ambiguous for the agencies to follow.
“I think it could be broader, more comprehensive and more aggressive,” said FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell.