The Case for a Regulatory Budget

THE DAILY SIGNAL, by Senator Mike Lee | May 23, 2016

This would give regulatory agencies—really for the first time—an incentive to make their regulations cost-effective. They would be made to work for the American people instead of the other way around. 

The federal regulatory state is out of control. It is out of control economically, costing Americans between $1 trillion and $2 trillion per year in artificially inflated prices. And it is out of control politically, as federal bureaucrats now write upwards of 95 percent of all new federal “laws” without winning a single vote in Congress or at the ballot box.

The Founders wrote our Constitution specifically to protect the American people from this kind of government without consent. They gave exclusive legislative power to the most accountable branch of the federal government—Congress.

Having elected legislators solely responsible for federal law makes it easy for the American people to know who to blame when policy decisions go bad. This stringent accountability is inconvenient for elected officials.

That’s why members of Congress have spent decades delegating their legislative powers to the Executive Branch—to duck political responsibility for actual policy decisions.

The Article I Project was launched this year to help reverse this trend. Central among Article I Project’s goals is to restore direct, accountable congressional control over the federal regulatory system. To that end, Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., and I will introduce new legislation titled the “Article I Regulatory Budget Act.”

The Article I Project was launched this year to help reverse this trend. Central among A1P’s goals is to restore direct, accountable congressional control over the federal regulatory system.

Our bill would, for the first time, require Congress to vote on the total regulatory burden each federal agency may impose on the American people each year—a budget for federal regulatory costs to mirror Congress’s annual budget for taxes and spending.

Under the discipline of a regulatory budget, Congress would be directly responsible for the size and scope of the regulatory state. Executive agencies could still issue and enforce their rules, but only so long as their impact fits within the regulatory-cost limits established by Congress.

This would give regulatory agencies—really for the first time—an incentive to make their regulations cost-effective. They would be made to work for the American people instead of the other way around. And the American people, for their part, would be empowered to make informed judgments at the ballot box about economic regulations.

This is what the Founders had in mind when they wrote Article I of the Constitution in the first place: A lawmaking system accountable to—and therefore legitimate in the eyes of—the people.

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