Republicans out front of Obama on regulations

By Larry Margasak

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 7 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

At a recent hearing chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of Energy and Commerce's investigative subcommittee, Republicans summoned Obama's chief regulation official, Cass Sunstein. GOP members launched into tirades against the EPA and other regulatory agencies. Stearns and other Republicans often cut off Sunstein's responses as he tried to explain administration policies.

Many of the responses Issa got simply echo what businesses and their trade associations formally told the administration during the formal public comment periods for regulatory proposals.

Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a private group that monitors federal regulatory actions, said Issa's hearing and the letters he solicited just give corporate interests more opportunities to insist that the administration's regulatory proposals are job killers, a claim he says is unproven.

"These letters are designed around building momentum on putting pressure on the administration to cut back on federal regulations," Bass said.

If the Obama administration takes the responses to Issa seriously, it will have a lot of reading to do.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association objected to special flight restrictions for Washington, D.C., airspace. The group said they were "hastily established during a weekend in February 2003, and . intended to be a temporary security measure imposed in preparation for the then-pending Iraq war." Possible penalty for noncompliance: "pilot certificate revocation or even being 'shot down.'"

The association pegged the cost to the private sector as $628 million over 10 years.

The American Beverage Association, the voice for the non-alcoholic drink industry, said an example of "government overreach" is the spending of stimulus dollars by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC doled out grants "that unfairly single out beverages containing sugar for denigration, including campaigns encouraging the imposition of special taxes on these products."

The group highlighted its collaboration with first lady Michelle Obama in calling for innovative initiatives to end obesity.

The American Chemistry Council contended that proposed EPA regulations for industrial boilers and heaters jeopardized 60,000 jobs, but it said the regulation was a symptom of a wider problem: inadequate measurement of the financial and employment impact of proposed rules.

The American Meat Institute complained that 100,000 jobs could be lost in the meat, livestock and related industries by a proposed livestock and poultry marketing rule that "goes well beyond the mandate" in the 2008 farm bill.

Members of nonprofit credit unions would be harmed by a proposed Federal Reserve rule that would allow the institutions to collect only 12 cents per debit card transaction when their costs amount to 44 cents, according to the National Credit Union Administration. The rule could force credit unions to impose monthly checking account fees of $15 to $20, the group said.

The National Mining Association said EPA "guidance" for surface and underground coal mining in Appalachia amounted to "a de-facto moratorium on the issuance of coal mining permits." The group said EPA acted "in complete disregard of existing federal law and procedure" and would cost the industry "thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars" in West Virginia alone.

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