Senate Votes to `Go Slow' on Curb of Regulations
Bill Lambrecht Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
The House GOP's drive to curb federal regulations ran into a roadblock Wednesday when the Senate rejected a freeze on new rules and approved instead a more moderate approach.
The 100-0 vote was a message to House Republicans that the Senate prefers a go-slow approach when it comes to reining in federal bureaucrats.
"We have our own ideas," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., who is co-chairman of the Regulatory Relief Task Force in the Senate. "We will have to compromise or argue with our colleagues in the House."
The Senate bill approved Wednesday would scrap the House-approved freeze and replace it with a proposal that gives Congress 45 days to review new federal regulations as well as any "significant" rule proposed since Nov. 9, 1994. The president could veto any congressional move to void a proposed regulation, but Congress could override a veto by a two-thirds vote.
Bond said the Senate approach would work better over the long haul than a one-year freeze.
"For too long, we in Congress have stood back and tossed rocks at regulatory agencies. We ought to be exercising our oversight authority." He tacked on an amendment to the Senate bill giving states more flexibility under the Clean Air Act.
The rules being debated in Congress are those that government agencies issue to enforce laws like the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act as well as regulations to protect people from threatening wastes and workplace hazards.
The yearlong rules freeze was approved by the House 276-146 last month. While it was not technically part of the House GOP's Contract with America, it was considered in tune with the contract's broad assault on federal rulemaking. The freeze seeks to block an array of nonemergency regulations proposed after last Nov. 20, among them added protections for drinking water and rules demanding that industries disclose more of the chemical pollution that they release into the environment.
In Atlanta, President Bill Clinton said the Senate action could reduce red-tape "without undermining the health and safety of the American people. This approach, not the blunt instrument of the moratorium, is the right way to reform regulation. It's common sense." He had hinted that he would veto the proposed freeze.
The Senate action set the stage for a showdown with the House. Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., the chief House sponsor of the freeze, said: "While the Senate bill has some interesting features that are worthy of debate, I believe the House-passed, one-year freeze on regulations is the kind of tool we need to reform the Washington bureaucracy. …