When Republicans retook the House in 2010, they pledged to fight regulation they felt put an unnecessary burden on employers and job creators.
But first, they would need to document it.
A report to colleagues from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, "Delivering on Our Commitment,” promised they would "conduct an immediate and comprehensive review of existing and proposed government rules, regulations, and statutes that impose additional, unnecessary costs on employers and job creators."
And a little more than a month into the 112th Congress, lawmakers passed a resolution to require committees to do essentially that.
It directed 10 standing committees, from Agriculture to Ways and Means, to "inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations and orders from agencies of the Federal Government, particularly with respect to their effect on jobs and economic growth.”
The committees reported their findings in semiannual reports, which led to an Aug. 29, 2011, list of 10 top "job-destroying regulations,” said Cantor's press secretary, Megan Whittemore.
They included, for example, Obama administration positions on health plans, air pollution and union election procedures.
So, the House moved fairly quickly. But it would have been tough for a multimonth effort by congressional committees to be truly "comprehensive.”
"Congressional committees can't possible undertake a comprehensive review of all existing and pending regulations in a few months,” said Roger Noll, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where he directs the Program in Regulatory Policy.
A serious effort, he said, would involve a much longer, better-funded congressional investigation or a study by one of the arms of Congress, such as the Congressional Budget Office or Government Accountability Office.
We checked out several of the semiannual committee reports where lawmakers were required to document any "oversight or legislative activity” done "in support of, or as a result of” their inventory of rules and regulations. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, mentioned the resolution, H. Res. 72, nearly 50 times. But some hearings it said it held "in support of, or as a result of” its cataloging effort appeared to have a merely tangential relationship with a review of federal regulation, such as a hearing on the U.S. response to tsunami-triggered incidents at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
House Republicans did quickly move to review existing and proposed government rules. But the review appeared to be more about politics than reform, and less than "comprehensive.” We rate this promise a Compromise.