Rep. Nadler Speaks Out Against Republican Efforts to Weaken Health and Safety Regulations

Oct 25, 2017 Issues: Civil Liberties

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jerrold Nadler spoke in opposition to H.R. 469, the Congressional Article I Powers Strengthening Act, which would create procedural impediments for regulatory agencies to carry out their legally mandated obligations to regulate certain industries. This bill is another in a long line of Big Business friendly, Republican attempts to undermine sensible regulations that protect everyday Americans.

"With one hand, Republicans defund federal agencies, and with the other hand, they erect hurdles in the regulatory process so that agencies have no ability to complete their work," said Congressman Nadler. "This bill is a shameful effort that may save big businesses some money in regulatory compliance, but will cost the American people in terms of their health, safety, and possibly their lives."

The full text of Congressman Nadler's statement follow below:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 469, the newly-renamed Congressional Article I Powers Strengthening Act.  This legislation stitches together three unrelated bills, each one problematic in its own way.

"Title III of the bill, the 'Article I Amicus and Intervention Act,' would permit, as of right, the House to intervene as a party, or as an amicus, in a lawsuit when the Department of Justice declines to defend the constitutionality of a law or regulation.  While this proposal may have some merit, it was introduced only last week, it was the subject of no hearing, it has had no markup, and we simply do not know the full implications of this measure.  If it is a worthy proposal, we should take the time to consider it in our committee before moving forward.

"Title II of this legislation, the 'Judgment Fund Transparency Act,' would require additional reporting about the funds paid out of the Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund by the United States Government, to resolve legal claims against it.  Although additional transparency of government spending is generally positive, this legislation raises significant privacy concerns.  For example, it would require publishing sensitive personally identifying information about individual claimants who are the victims of government misconduct, such as medical malpractice, racial discrimination, or sexual harassment.  Our laws should carefully balance the need for public disclosure of government spending with the need to protect the personal privacy of individual citizens.  This bill upsets that balance.

"But, by far, the most concerning aspect of this legislation is Title I, the 'Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act.'  This provision also poses as a transparency measure, but its real aim is to disrupt and delay the process for issuing rules that protect public health and safety.

"Congress frequently sets a statutory deadline for an agency to complete a rulemaking, but the agency sometimes misses that deadline.  Under the current law, private parties can sue the agency to meet its statutory obligations.  Since there is little dispute that the agency has failed to do its duty, these lawsuits often end up settling, with the agency agreeing to a new schedule in which to complete the required rulemaking.  That is perfectly reasonable.

"However, the Republican Majority, and the businesses that are the subject of such regulation, believe these lawsuits have some nefarious purpose.  They have concocted an imagined vast conspiracy by which private parties collude with the Government to file a lawsuit, and the Government happily either settles or enters into a consent decree, supposedly allowing it to impose obligations or rules beyond what it could otherwise do.

"Unfortunately for supporters of this bill, there is no evidence of such a conspiracy and no evidence of any problem.  To solve this nonexistent problem, this bill adds numerous procedural requirements before a settlement or consent decree can be entered into.  The effect of these requirements will be to make any settlements or consent decrees more difficult, and more time consuming, to enter into, with the predictable result being that agencies will not even bother to enter into them at all.

"Most troubling, the bill would create a special and more permissive rule for virtually any party to involve itself in a case as an intervenor.  These interveners would do their best to ruin, block, or delay any settlement, including during what should be private negotiations.  That, of course, is the true purpose of this bill.  They seek to tie government agencies up in years of litigation so that they are unable to issue rules protecting public health and safety.

"The real conspiracy here is the Republican plot to destroy the regulatory state.  With one hand we defund the agencies, and with the other hand we build all sorts of hurdles in the regulatory process so that they have no ability to complete their work.  It is a shameful effort that may save big businesses some money in regulatory compliance, but it will cost our citizens their health, their safety, and possibly their lives.

"I urge my colleagues to oppose this terrible legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time."

###