A Tale of Two Bills: The Radical REINS Act vs. the Groundbreaking Stop Corporate Capture Act
By Bitsy Skerry, regulatory policy associate for Public Citizen
On March 10, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust held a hearing titled “Reining in the Administrative State: Reclaiming Congress’s Legislative Power.” The hearing shepherded a tale of two visions for our system of public protections: one that seeks to undermine our government’s ability to protect the public from harm and take the regulatory process in the wrong direction, and another that seeks to strengthen the regulatory process to protect the public more effectively and moves in the right direction toward a more equitable, robust, and responsive regulatory system. The two bills that encompass these contrasting visions and were the subject of discussion at the hearing are the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2023, H.R. 277, and the Stop Corporate Capture Act, H.R. 1507, respectively.
The REINS Act is a dangerous and harmful anti-regulatory bill that would make it harder — or perhaps impossible — for agencies to protect the public by rendering the regulatory process more ineffective than it already is. The REINS Act is a radical threat — one of the most radical in generations — to our government’s ability to protect the public from harm. The bill’s clear aim is to halt the implementation of critical new public health and safety safeguards, financial reforms, and worker protections — making industry even less accountable to the public. Rather than improve protections for the American public, it would benefit only those corporations that wish to game the system and evade safety standards.
Under the REINS Act, Congress would have the ability to “kill” a major rule — a rule with a large economic impact — if one house voted against it, which is, in practice, an unconstitutional legislative veto. Further, because the bill would require Congress to vote on all major rules, the REINS Act is completely unworkable and flies in the face of the reality of the legislative process. Congress already increasingly struggles to pass important new laws, including must-pass bills that accomplish basic functions like funding the government. If the REINS Act were to pass, it is all but certain that most, if not all, new major rules would be blocked due to Congressional dysfunction.
At the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Massie said that the REINS Act is a step “in the right direction.” He further stated, “We can and should have the discussion today about where law should come from. And as set forth by our Constitution, binding rules should come from politically accountable elected representatives, not from the administrative state.”
Massie’s assertions that this bill is good and only Congress has the power to make policy are false. This radical bill gives members of Congress the power to silence the voices of their own constituents who have democratically shared their opinions on the very rules that Congress delegated authority to agencies to promulgate.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Cicilline stated in his opening remarks, “This Subcommittee is charged with overseeing regulatory reform, which is clearly much needed. And yet today, instead of using our first hearing to discuss what and how we must ensure that the government is acting to not only help those in need right now, but also to implement new safety and environmental regulations that would prevent a disaster like [the East Palestine, Ohio toxic train derailment] from ever happening again, we’re talking about, and I quote, ‘reclaiming Congress’ legislative power.’ I frankly didn’t know that this is a power that had been lost.” Cicilline also expressed his support for the Stop Corporate Capture Act, which he co-sponsors.
“…I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in supporting legislation that would make industry and our government more accountable by ensuring that all agency-issued rules are based on rigorous studies and free from bias like the Stop Corporate Capture Act introduced by Representative Jayapal,” said Cicilline. “At a time when residents across three states are grappling with the highly toxic fallout of a culture of deregulation and lack safety standards of the Trump administration, we need to be focusing on how do we make rulemaking more effective and efficient, not gunk-ing up the wheels.”
Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Nadler also expressed support for the bill, stating, “If we want to improve the regulatory process, we would consider legislation such as the Stop Corporate Capture Act, which would bring more transparency and accountability to the rulemaking process.”
In contrast to the REINS Act, the Stop Corporate Capture Act empowers the public. Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s groundbreaking bill offers the necessary comprehensive blueprint for modernizing, improving, and strengthening the regulatory system to protect the public more effectively. It would level the playing field for all members of the public to have their views accounted for in regulatory decisions that affect them; promote scientific integrity; and restore our government’s ability to deliver results for workers, consumers, public health, and the environment.
As witness Emily Hammond, professor of The George Washington University Law School succinctly put it, “there is always room for improvement in agency decision-making, and Representative Jayapal’s Stop Corporate Capture Act, for example, offers several upgrades.”
“Right now, America needs more protections, not fewer,” said Hammond.
Public Citizen submitted written testimony to the record for this hearing. You can read it here.