The REINS Act: Unbridled Impediment to Regulation
42 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2015 Last revised: 5 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 9, 2015
The Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act, or REINS Act, is a legislative proposal that would greatly increase congressional control over administrative agency rulemaking. Under the bill, no "major rule" (a rule with a large economic impact) could go into effect unless Congress affirmatively approved it by adopting a joint resolution. The resolution would have to be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President (or repassed by two-thirds votes in each chamber in the event of a presidential veto). The House of Representatives passed REINS Act bills in 2011 and 2013 on near-party-line votes, and the 114th Congress, under unified Republican control, is likely to take up the proposal again.
This article criticizes the bill on the basis that it would create an unmanageable workload for Congress, as well as unacceptable risks of stalemate in the development of important regulations. The article also questions the constitutionality of the bill. Some authors contend that the REINS Act would be valid, because Congress does not have to grant rulemaking power in the first place. In contrast, this article argues that the bill's provisions would bear a fatal resemblance to a one-house legislative veto, which the Supreme Court held unconstitutional in INS v. Chadha (1983). In addition, the article draws on experiences with comparable legislation at the state level.
Keywords: REINS Act, federal regulation, administrative agencies, Congress, executive authority, separation of powers, legislative veto, political accountability
JEL Classification: K23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation