Rand Paul's REINS Act Finally Makes It to Senate Floor

A new high water mark for regulatory reform, but another bill might eclipse Paul's proposal.


Jerry Mennenga/ZUMA Press/Newscom

A Senate committee vote on Wednesday is a new high water mark for a long-sought-after regulatory reform proposal. Further progress, though, might be unlikely.

The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the REINS Act (the acronym stands for "Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny"), sending the bill to the Senate floor for the first time. While the REINS Act has cleared the House several times in recent years—most recently in January—this is the first time the proposal has been approved by a vote of any kind in the Senate.

Sponsored by Sen. Ran Paul (R-Kentucky), the REINS Act would require every new regulation that costs more than $100 million to be approved by Congress. As it is now, executive branch agencies can pass those rules unilaterally, and even though those major rules account for only 3 percent of annual regulations, they are the ones that cause the most headaches for individuals and businesses.

Passage of the REINS Act would also require Congress to review all existing regulations that surpass the $100 million threshold. Since there's no clear accounting of how many such rules exist, assessing the landscape would be a necessary step before reforms could be enacted.

"For too long, an ever-growing federal bureaucracy has piled regulations and red tape on the backs of the American people without any approval by Americans' elected representatives," Paul said in a statement Wednesday. "The REINS Act reasserts Congress' legislative authority and would continue the historic progress we have made this year to curb the damaging effects of overreaching regulations."

While the committee vote is a win for the legislation, another bill also approved by the same committee on Wednesday is a more likely vehicle for regulatory reforms this year. Clyde Wayne Crews, the vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank that favors regulatory reform, tells Reason that he doesn't expect a floor vote on Paul's bill this year—though he admits it's difficult to predict anything in Washington.

Still, regulatory reformers have hope in the form of the Regulatory Accountability Act, which would codify several executive branch mandates requiring cost/benefit analyses on new rules. It would also require executive agencies to do more after-the-fact reviews of the consequences of their regulations and would apply the same cost/benefit measures to things that aren't technically regulations but do much of the same thing, like when the FAA issues "guidance" on drone rules, for example.

The Regulatory Accountability Act does not go as far as the REINS Act, but "it helps pave the way for more substantial reforms in the future," says Crews.

What of President Donald Trump's promise to reshape the federal regulatory state—to bring about the "deconstruction of the regulatory state," as White House adviser Steve Bannon promised in March?

"It's not that," says Crews. "The administrative state will be just fine. It won't solve every problem, but it might allow our descendants to do so."

With Congress likely to spend the next several months on hearings concerned with the firing of James Comey and other hearings seeking to find his replacement as director of the FBI, the entire legislative agenda for 2017 has been disrupted. Health care and tax reform will likely be pushed off until the fall, and the federal budget still has to be passed too.

In that environment, getting the REINS Act to the floor of the Senate might be a bigger accomplishment than it initially seems, even if it moves no farther.

NEXT: All This Impeachment Talk Is Pure Trump Derangement Syndrome

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  1. Are these losers still writing legislation to try and solve problems? Why bother with hundred-page laws when you can #makeamericagrateagain with 144-character executive orders? Sad!

    1. The tweets are designed to get lefties to flip out and spend all their energy on nonsense.

      Its working!

      1. The old “he’s playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers” argument…

        Partisans on both sides spout this BS constantly. Trump’s lack of knowledge, foresight, and self-control speaks for themselves. Never mind the fact that he pursues many policies I find to be utterly inane and counterproductive from almost any serious libertarian perspective (hopefully many others on here agree).

        1. I agree. Believing Trump is some brilliant tactician is not too different than believing differential calculus was invented by earth worms and was taken by humans via cross phylum appropriation. He is nothing more than the moron he appears to be.

          1. You laugh, but it was only after I shoved an earth worm in my ear that I understood Green’s theorem.

            1. I shudder to think what you had to do with the earthworm to understand Cauchy’s theorem.

          2. He got elected president, didn’t he?

            1. Trump was elected after a whole bunch of people voted for him because the alternative was even more scary.

        2. Trump is like Hitler in this one regard: he does things by intuition, without regard to consequences. He wings it. And because everybody else is expecting something reasonable, he catches them off balance and succeeds. At some point, his enemies figure out he’s as loopy as it seems, and they counter him, and the game shifts.

          He will begin to be cornered sometime before his term ends, and may well throw in the towel and not go for re-election, since it won’t be fun any more. I don’t think impeachment is likely in his first term.

          1. He will begin to be cornered sometime before his term ends, and may well throw in the towel and not go for re-election

            Thank God Hitler threw in the towel after his first term.

            1. I’ve often wondered how long Germany would have continued if Hitler hadn’t committed suicide. They were trapped in the bunker and the Russians would have overrun it pretty soon regardless, and without having a legitimate heir, there would have been no one else to surrender. I expect it would only have been a week longer at most, and maybe sooner, given the utter collapse of legit government and all the field soldiers not worrying so much about the non-existent chain of command.

            2. I read that Hitler was an incorrigible towel snapper in art school.

  2. Good start but I would have all federal rules/laws repealed in 1 year, so Congress has to decide what is going to be law into summer 2018.

    1. “but I would have all federal rules/laws repealed in 1 year”

      Huh I never took you for an anarchist.

    2. It might not be a bad idea to have some types of legislation (particularly economic regulations) automatically expire after a fixed time if not renewed by a vote.

      The thing that worries me is that this might just encourage some legislators to amp up regulation at each interval. I wonder how many regulations would be even worse if the Liz Warrens of the senate actually had to noticed them once a year.

  3. “Sponsored by Sen. Ran Paul (R-Kentucky), the REINS Act would require every new regulation that costs more than $100 million to be approved by Congress.”

    I read this and I literally saw the Ron Paul meme ‘It’s Happening!’ flash before my eyes…

  4. The administrative state will be just fine.


    1. I know I was worried.

  5. One of our few local Democrats is writing weekly letters to the local newspaper saying that all this panned deregulation is already raping and pillaging the environment and O.M.G. if “we” don’t convince Congress to do something to force the oil and gas and coal monsters to cease production our children will die from global warming.

    1. It’s much better to die from heat stroke, hypothermia, or lack of clean water.

    2. Sounds like someone wants you to cut the power lines to their house. For the children!

  6. Honestly asking, does the $100 million minimum mean that REINS is far more likely to help big businesses or wealthy donors and not protect the little guy or the average citizen?

    What are some good examples of the 3% that fit this minimum?

    1. Regulations by their nature help big business and the wealthy by providing additional barriers to new comers to the industry.

      The idea that we shouldn’t get rid of a regulation because corporations will just make more money is kinda silly. They’re already making more money due to lack of competition.

    2. Perhaps in scattered cases. However, it’s not “100 million per company”, it’s 100 million total. If it’s a general edict that impacts ALL small businesses, this will certainly help them. Niche abuses may still fall through the cracks.

  7. With Congress likely to spend the next several months on hearings concerned with the firing of James Comey and other hearings seeking to find his replacement as director of the FBI

    Da Fuck you say? Months? To investigate fantasies? To approve an appointment? Months? It better not be ducking months or that’s the end of the Democratic Party and the legacy media.
    Months! *Wanders away mumbling under his breath and occasionally pointing a warning finger at the sky or some random stranger.

  8. I like this plan.

    And if the regulators try to keep their regulations under $100M we can jail them for structuring.

    1. Whoah, now. Structuring only applies to the little people, not to the little people’s humble servants.

    2. I like the cut of your jib, Waco my boy!

      Add in private grand juries and prosecutors, with a 10% bounty of the savings of each cancelled program to whoever brings the case, and I might just need some alone time.

  9. Interesting how all this histeria about political b.s. has taken the pedephilia stuff out of the “news”. Does the rest of the world stop and settle down when we bark and howl about political “news”?

  10. Wish Dr. Rand Paul was President (instead of Donald Trump). We be a lot better off.

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