To add to the heaping plate of dysfunctional and partisan politics set in front of the American public, the Obama and Trump forces are in a tug-of-war about legislation that impacts the health and safety of the country. The agenda ranges from immigration and Obamacare to the environment.
Using the methodology of law-making – clearly along party lines – two specific pieces of legislation have been presented to the 115th Congress. They are the: Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 and the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (REINS Act).
The former focuses on a way for members of Congress to scrap regulations put into play by a President during the last sixty days of their administration’s time in office. In other words, the newly seated Congress could overturn, via a vote, any final regulations that Obama seeks to enact.
The latter is a bill that allows Congress to become the final arbiter on findings that have already been thoroughly vetted and put in place, often over a period of several years. In a requisite seventy days, the input of scientists, public opinion, and research data, can all be overturned.
There are a lot of moving parts in what these laws mean for both current and future scenarios. Regarding Trump vs. Obama, it’s almost a kind of “last licks” set-up. It’s not hard to guess who comes down where in this equation.
Written defenses of these bills offered by “think tanks” like the Heritage Foundation, funded by Koch money, have made the rounds.
Those who have been defenders of environmental statutes point out that with passage of these bills, the research and efforts of experts and scientists will fall victim to the agendas of big industry and corporations with dollars and clout. This is particularly relevant in the areas of air pollution, toxic chemicals, water safety, and other standards that protect public health.
Regarding the integrity of oversight, the REINS Act would serve to come down on the side of those exact businesses that need to be regulated. In actuality, it would serve to crush protections for the public good, or greatly delay them — as stipulations outline that they are not allowed to be reintroduced during the same Congressional period.
On the chopping block is the Clean Power Plan, which Trump has repeatedly declared is a top “to-do.” Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to be the head of the EPA, has been suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan for years – in his capacity as Oklahoma District Attorney. Those actions will serve as great practice for the procedural steps he must take to undo regulations.
Also at risk are the 2015 Ozone regulations that set the “allowable” level of ozone at 70 parts per billion. This was a reduction of five parts, from the previous standard of 75.
Established fracking guidelines and methane leak supervision are also in for a tough ride. It’s not hard to determine where Trump’s potential cabinet, loaded with climate deniers, stands. The Trump team is also looking at lack of enforcement as another tool to accomplish their goals.
Despite those who maintain that both acts are a good move, the lack of accountability and transparency they would foster is a high negative.
Ironically, in 2004, a New York Times editorial called that year’s iteration of the REINS act “a terrible piece of legislation that would undermine a functioning regulatory system that protects people from harm.”
REINS passed in the House by a 237-187 vote. Check to see how your Congressperson voted. Then contact your Senators and let them know the REINS Act puts your the health of your children and mine at risk.