Editorial July 31, 2015

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

“As this scenario unfolds we would have government agency heads also compelled to play congressional politics just to get a rule passed.”

When Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) sent that letter to Iran explaining what he believed was the role of Congress in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions what came to mind is how could a ‘normal’ Congress of 535 members ever deal with something as delicate as nuclear negotiations with an unfriendly foreign nation let alone this Congress with some serious ideological and foreign policy divides and that is within only the Republican Party? Add to that divisions among the Democrats and the prospects would look dim for any negotiated resolutions.

Cotton’s letter got the mocked  response it deserved but the attitude, that Congress is ‘it’ and knows better about how to run the Executive Branch than the current President remains in HR 427 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015.

Here’s a bill that contradicts the prevailing spending cut mentality and demonstrates how an unproductive attitude towards government can lead to unforeseen circumstances and unexpected spending.

The bill requires that any Executive Branch agency must get approval for any new regulations that would cost over $100 million, causes a major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, Federal, State, or local government agencies, or geographic regions; or has significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United States-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets.

Besides the fact that the bill does not say if a new rule may not violate any or all of the above reasons it fails to define ‘a major increase in costs or prices’, ‘has significant adverse effects on competition’, or the other reasons a regulation is ‘major’. On top of that we have no idea how much this bill will cost and that is a contradiction to a bill that says it is concerned about the cost of major regulations.

The CBO weigh-in on this bill should have been enough to pull it from the floor; “Because CBO does not assume enactment of subsequent legislation in estimating a bill’s effect on direct spending and revenues, this estimate addresses the costs and savings that would be realized if anticipated major rules do not take effect. CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) cannot determine the budgetary effects of making all future major rules subject to Congressional approval, but we expect that, in the absence of subsequent legislative action affecting those rules, enacting H.R. 427 would have significant effects on both direct spending and revenues. Enacting H.R. 427 would also affect tax revenues, and JCT expects that preventing regulations from going into effect could reduce collections of revenues in some cases and increase collections in other cases. JCT cannot determine the significance or magnitude of the possible effects on revenues.” Adding insult to injury CBO continues; “H.R. 427 also would affect programs for which spending is subject to the annual appropriation process. However, CBO cannot determine the magnitude of that effect.”

Pay-as-you-go rules apply to this bill which only dig it a deeper hole since the Majority mantra is that additions to the deficit have to be offset by spending cuts (likely) or raised taxes elsewhere (unlikely), although a provision in other bills prohibiting the cost from being entered on the PAYGO scorecards is not unusual. Here is how CBO sees that element of the bill, “CBO expects that implementing H.R. 427 also could have a significant impact on spending subject to appropriation, although we cannot determine the magnitude of that effect.

While there have been stories of government agency heads or those lower on the food chain being influenced by the same companies who want a favorable rule or regulation, the stories, at least in volume, wane in comparison to the money influence in Congress. So HR 427 may be opening the doors for lobbyists to get the rules they want by the usual revolving door on Capitol Hill. CBO considers the warnings for cigarette packages and advertisements a ‘major rule’. So you know where big tobacco lobbyist would be headed if this bill was in place back then.

As this scenario unfolds we would have government agency heads also compelled to play congressional politics just to get a rule passed.

Finally, there is the question of need for this bill; Currently, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) Congress has the authority to stop a regulation with a joint resolution of disapproval. Bill supporters believe that only gives them after-the-fact authority. They want to get in there and craft the regulation which, of course, returns us to lobbyist influence. ##

Foreign Affairs

“Jonathan Pollard, the former intelligence analyst who stole more than a million pages of classified documents and sold them to Israel “should stay in jail,” Ron Olive, the federal agent who caught him, told USNI News on Wednesday.”

Story by Sam La Grone, US Naval Institute

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ISIS

A man described by the FBI as an Islamic State sympathizer who hoped to mount attacks on US soil was charged on Tuesday with plotting to detonate a nail-filled backpack bomb on a Florida beach.

The Guardian

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The ISIS is preparing to attack India to provoke an Armageddon-like confrontation with the US, according to an internal recruitment document of the feared group which also seeks to unite the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban into a single army of terror.

The Economic Times (India)

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Pictures of a gift shop in northern Iraq selling a whole range of souvenirs with Islamic State logo on them have emerged on social media, suggesting the extremist group has made yet another step to becoming a full-fledged state with relevant attributes and functions.

RT.com/politics

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Israel / Palestine

As Mideast experts and advocates conclude their debate about the Iran nuclear deal, their attention may well revert to the Israeli-Palestinian arena. A new poll demonstrates that Palestinians now have surprisingly nuanced views on many current and controversial issues.

The Washington Institute – David Pollock

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IRAN

Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday that “high-level” talks will soon be launched with the European Union following a nuclear agreement reached with world powers earlier this month.

Yahoo. News

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