Consumer groups see momentum building against more White House authority over regulators
By Emmanuel Olaoye, Compliance Complete
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - A coalition of public-interest groups is urging Congress to reject a bill that would allow the White House to review major rules proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.
The “Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act” which was introduced by Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, would give the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs the power to ask independent agencies such as the SEC to submit a cost-benefit analysis on “significant rules” or rules that have an economic impact of $100 million.
The bill, co-sponsored by Virginia Democrat Mark Warner and Maine Republican Susan Collins, was set to be voted on at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, but the committee has twice postponed meetings to debate the bill. Last week, Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the committee, said he would postpone a debate session that had been anticipated for after the Thanksgiving holiday. The committee plans to have a hearing on the measure before the end of the post-election session, CQ Roll Call reported, citing Lieberman.
Lieberman’s remarks came after the SEC and the Federal Reserve sent a letter to Congress before the Nov. 6 election urging lawmakers not to pass the bill. A collection of public interest groups called the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is also fighting the bill.
Critics, including Public Citizen and OMB Watch, say that the White House office takes too long to review rules and that independent agencies lack the budget to conduct cost-benefit analyses on a regular basis.
The regulators’ letter helped to bolster opposition to the measure, Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, told Compliance Complete. “The bill has lost momentum but we’re still pushing back against it. … The concerns and reservations we initially expressed about the legislation have been confirmed by a number of top agency regulators,” he said.
The “harmful effects of the bill” were gaining more visibility, said Randy Rabinowitz, director of regulatory policy at OMB Watch. “There is an illusion that somehow cost-benefit analysis is like apple pie and motherhood. We disagree with that. We think the way it is currently practiced by OMB is tilted against consumer protections. The immediate impact of the passage of this bill would be to give OMB control over lots of the regulations that would implement Dodd-Frank that it would not otherwise have control over,” she said.
A Senate aide working on the bill denied the bill had lost momentum and said there was enough support from Senate Democrats for the bill to pass. The bill could be reintroduced in the next Congress as a standalone bill or as part of a larger reform package.
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