Curb Federal Agencies’ Power

For many years, members of Congress fell victim to a serious error in judgment: They trusted the army of unelected, often unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, the American people have paid for that mistake.

As we have been reminded by President Barack Obama, the line between a law enacted by the people’s representatives and a sweeping order issued by one person has been virtually erased through use of executive orders from the White House.

Even more pernicious are rules and regulations put out by federal agencies. There are thousands and thousands of them, with not a one to be found in the statute books.

Still, they have the force of law — because Congress made it so.

An excellent example of the phenomenon is the Environmental Protection Agency. About half a century ago, then-members of Congress decided they did not want to be bothered, intellectually or politically, with writing laws to safeguard the air, water and soil. So they enacted a measure giving the EPA sweeping discretion in deciding what should be done. Along with it went the power to implement rules and regulations.

We have seen what that meant — an EPA doggedly pursuing a vendetta against fossil fuels.

Other arms of the executive branch have similar power.

A few years ago, thoughtful members of Congress proposed reining in the agencies. Obama vowed to veto any such attempt.

But now, a new measure, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny — or REINS — Act, is being proposed. It would require Congress to review and approve any agency rule with an estimated annual impact of $100 million or more. Liberals hate the idea because it would restore law-making power to Congress, as envisioned in the Constitution. That alone is reason enough to enact REINS.