Don't delay bipartisan regulatory reform

During all the activity on tax and budget bills, an important bipartisan legislative effort in our campaign against inflation and against increasing consumer prices has been quietly moving forward. Unfortunately, enactment of this legislation, known as the Regulatory Reform Act, may be threatened by delay in House action on this bill as this session of Congress nears its end. Such a delay is not in the best interests of this country, and everyone should urge his congressional representative to help move this bill now.

Under the sponsorship of Senators Patrick Leahy, William Roth, Thomas Eagleton, myself, and 77 other senators, the Senate in March unanimously (94-0) passed the Regulatory Reform Act. This measure enhances our efforts to secure cleaner air and water, safe workplaces, and the like, while reducing the economic excesses of federal regulation which fuel inflation. The act achieves this by modifying the regulatory process to produce more effective regulation - regulation that will be more certain to accomplish important public goals without unnecessary economic burdens.

Since the American people strongly support regulatory reform, every sensible politician must support it. Yet legislation to achieve such reform involves complicated and highly technical issues of law and statutory drafting.

Senators Leahy, Roth, Eagleton, and I hold the relevant leadership positions on the committees responsible for regulatory reform legislation. Together, we grappled with the important details of regulatory reform. After fourteen months of drafting, revision, and compromise, we came up with a balanced package of procedural changes which we, and as it turned out the rest of our Senate colleagues, concluded was a common-sense approach to regulatory reform.

We wrote provisions in the Regulatory Reform Act that will require agencies to publicly evaluate their regulatory proposals in terms of what their likely good and bad effects will be. This not only involves the public in rule-making, but ensures that regulations will be publicly justified by what they can realistically be expected to achieve. To make agencies more accountable, we provided a limited presidential and judicial oversight of the process, circumscribed by the need to avoid endless delays and to preserve congressionally mandated policies. Finally, the full Senate added a provision to allow Congress to review agency rules.

After the Senate passed the measure, House Speaker O'Neill said he had every intention of bringing the House regulatory reform bill (HR 746) to the House floor. I applaud the Speaker's commitment to continue this bipartisan effort. Yet time is running short in this Congress to make good on this commitment. Only a few short weeks remain after the August recess before Congress adjourns for the elections. Acknowledgment of his support of this bill to Congress is now essential.

Enactment of this legislation will require that the House preserve the balanced approach of the consensus Senate bill. True bipartisan regulatory reform will die if the Speaker merely gives the House members the opportunity to vote for a watered-down regulatory reform bill just before the elections, and then presents the Senate with a weak House bill on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

From my perspective, rank-and-file House members of both parties want to be a part of the outstanding effort represented by the Senate bill, a bill carefully developed over the past four years by two administrations and bipartisan work in both houses of Congress. They recognize that, with the costs of regulation now estimated at over $100 billion a year - inflating already high consumer prices - the American public cannot afford further congressional delay.

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