How to take lawmaking out of the hands of the federal bureaucracy and presidents

( The U.S. Constitution is very clear when it comes to the passage of laws: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

But over the years, this lawmaking power has been eroded – granted, by Congress itself – to the point where now, presidents using the vast federal bureaucracy (which the Executive Branch controls) largely make law through the imposition of rules and regulations.

While certainly not the only president in modern times to do so, President Barack Obama has used the bureaucracy to a great extent to bypass Congress and implement his policies, and that has come at a massive cost to the U.S. economy (which, by the way, is on life support thanks in large part to these rules and regulations), a new Heritage Foundation study will say.

As The Daily Signal, Heritage’s news service, noted further:

Each year, regulators impose thousands of rules on the American people—over 20,000 during the Obama administration’s tenure alone. The cost is staggering: According to an upcoming Heritage study, the cost of Obama’s new rules alone is over $100 billion each year, and that only counts the biggest regulations.

The “fix,” it would seem, is easy – but in practice, fixing this huge imbalance between the Legislative and Executive Branches takes something that too few lawmakers currently in office have, and that is the desire to fix it.

One fix has been proposed, however: A law requiring congressional approval for any new regulations, shifting the role of lawmaking back to where it belongs. The REINS (Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act would do just that, requiring congressional approval for the hundred of so “major” rules imposed by the federal bureaucracy each year that cost the economy $100 million or more. It is currently stalled in Congress after having been approved in the House a number of times; it seems that too few senators agree with the premise of the bill.

Last week one senator, Mike Lee, R-Utah, tried to reassert congressional authority over lawmaking, proposing specifically to limit the Energy Department’s power to impose regulations without congressional consent. His effort, too, failed.

Congressional critics of the bill say they wonder how it would actually work in practice, The Daily Signal reported. Translated, that means more than a few senators (because that’s where the bill keeps failing) want to actually put in the work required of their elected position to discuss, debate and consider legislation. Too many senators have no problem passing off the difficult business of governing to the Executive Branch, finding it easier to complain about presidential policy decisions rather than oppose them outright.

In reality, this problem is Congress’ fault. For decades the Legislative Branch has been passing laws that have included the creation of more and more federal agencies – laws that gave the newly created agencies the power to essentially write their own rules of operation. And over the years successive presidents have steadily increased the power and scope of these agencies through the use of executive orders and other presidential prerogatives.

Today the federal bureaucracy pretty much runs on autopilot: Agency and department heads, taking their cue from the White House, develop, implement and impose rules and regulations by the thousands, each of which carries a compliance cost and threat of punishment if violated. This out-of-control process is harming the American people and the U.S. economy in innumerable ways.

The founding fathers never envisioned an Executive Branch with that much power; rather, they envisioned a Legislative Branch that would jealously guard its authority, not give it away. They were wrong – but their intent was certainly good.

Mike Lee has a prescription to fix this. He ought to be supported in his effort.

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