MIDNIGHT RULES RELIEF ACT OF 2016

November 17, 2016
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to H.R. 5982, the so-called Midnight Rules Relief Act, which amends the Congressional Review Act. This bill would allow Congress to consider a joint resolution to simultaneously disapprove multiple regulations en bloc, all at once, when such rules are issued within the last 60 legislative days of a session of Congress in the final year of a President's term. Now, that is legislative days. In this case, 60 legislative days would reach back until May of this year, almost 8 months before the end of the President's term. To call the rules issued last spring a midnight rule is a curious use of the word.

   This bill puts in place an indiscriminate process to eliminate rules, many of which have been under consideration for years, even decades, to protect consumers, working people, and students. This bill denies Congress the opportunity for a careful case-by-case review that the congressional review process now provides, and that process would be appropriate for reasoned decisionmaking by a legislative body.

   This bill would jettison rules without even considering the costs and benefits of whether the rule followed the least burdensome approach to achieve a goal under the law. Once a rule is rejected, the rule can never be taken up again in substantially similar form. So after a thoughtful review, we might decide that the unpleasant regulation was actually the better way to address a problem than any alternative, but by then it is too late.

   Mr. Chairman, under the Congressional Review Act, the Senate could pass its en bloc resolution of disapproval without even holding a hearing, and send it to the House for a vote on the floor without any form of consideration by the committee of jurisdiction. So we would end up just voting on a slogan or a sound bite without any opportunity for deliberative consideration. That is not a responsible way to legislate.

   There has always been criticism of a tendency of a significant number of rules and regulations to be issued following a Presidential election before the President leaves office, regardless of the party in control. However, the nonpartisan congressionally mandated Administrative Conference of the United States found that ``a dispassionate look at midnight rules issued by past administrations of both political parties reveals that most were under active consideration long before the November election.''

   They go on to say that many of the rules involved routine matters or were required by law. For example, a final OSHA rule to prevent injuries caused by inadequate fall protection has been under development for over 26 years.

   The Administrative Conference called for Congress to put in place a 60-day waiting period for rules that are issued after a Presidential election so that the new incoming administration can review the rules. Now, that legislation is what we really ought to be considering, not the bill before us today.

   I think it is important to look at some of the rules that could be impacted under this bill:

   The Department of Labor issued a rule requiring Federal contractors to provide up to 7 days of paid sick leave annually for people working on Federal contracts.

   A forthcoming OSHA regulation, which has been under development for over 18 years, would protect workers from overexposure of beryllium. That is a substance that causes incurable lung disease often resulting in death by

   suffocation. That rule has been under consideration for 18 years and we are finally getting to the actual rule.

   The rule to implement the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which ensures that taxpayer dollars support those Federal contractors who comply with labor, civil rights, and workplace safety laws, not those who routinely and seriously violate such laws.

   The EEOC's pay data rule, which helps eliminate pay disparities due to race, ethnicity, and gender.

   The Department of Education's borrower's defense rule, which helps protect student borrowers who were defrauded by their universities.

   The Department of Education's forthcoming K-12 accountability rule, which provides clarity and ensures faithful implementation of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act in order to graduate all students ready for success in college and career.

   The Department of Education's forthcoming supplement not supplant rule, which ensures that Federal dollars actually supplement State and local education funds that target at-risk youth.

   And, finally, another Health and Human Services' Head Start rule, which improves quality and access for our Nation's most vulnerable early learners.

   Each of these rules involves complex issues that cannot be discussed or properly addressed through the en bloc process where you have a bunch of regulations all in one bill. Now, if a rule needs to be challenged, the present law provides for a deliberative process to challenge the rule. Regrettably, H.R. 5982 is poised to allow the wholesale undermining of critical protections for students, workers, taxpayers, and consumers.

   I, therefore, urge a ``no'' vote on the bill.