The U.S. House approved a bill yesterday to make it more difficult for federal agencies to issue rules affecting small businesses. All House Republicans present voted for H.R. 527, as did 28 Democrats, including Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02). However, Boswell and Loebsack supported various amendments that would have weakened the bill.
H.R. 527 would "amend chapter 6 of title 5, United States Code (commonly known as the Regulatory Flexibility Act), to ensure complete analysis of potential impacts on small entities of rules." Pete Kasperowicz reported for The Hill,
The legislation is the latest of several proposals that Republicans have advanced in the name of trying to create a more hospitable environment for job creation. House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said the bill would remove several loopholes that federal agencies have used to avoid complying with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), which was meant to ensure federal rules are mindful of small companies.
Democrats argued that Republicans are effectively trying to regulate the regulators to the point that they would not be able to work.
"What it does is require agencies to engage in so much analysis and so much new procedures that it basically befuddles the agencies to bring forth any rules in the future," said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). "It is elimination by burdensome regulation, and while it doesn't say they're eliminating rules, that's the effect of it.
"The cumulative effect of this and other changes in H.R. 527 will be to undermine the ability of agencies to effectively regulate consumer health and product safety, environmental protection, workplace safety, and financial services industry's misconduct, among other critical concerns," Cohen added.
Looking at the roll call for the 263 to 159 vote on final passage, you can see that most of the Democrats who joined Republicans were members of the Blue Dog caucus like Boswell. Loebsack belongs to the House Progressive Caucus; Peter DeFazio of Oregon was the only other member of that caucus to vote for yesterday's bill.
This legislation is going nowhere in the U.S. Senate before the 2012 elections, so in a sense, supporting it is an easy way for vulnerable Democrats to give themselves cover with the business community. Looking closely at the House floor action, one gets the impression that Loebsack and Boswell didn't fully support this bill. Like the rest of the House Democrats present yesterday, Loebsack and Boswell voted for the motion to recommit the bill with instructions. That is typically the last chance to kill a bill before final passage in the House of Representatives.
During floor debate, the House rejected most of the amendments proposed by Democrats to weaken the H.R. 527. Iowa Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) opposed all of those amendments, while Democrat Bruce Braley (IA-01) supported them all.
Boswell and Loebsack both voted for an amendment to exempt Department of Homeland Security rules; an amendment to exempt "any rule that relates to food safety, workplace safety, consumer products safety, air or water quality"; an amendment to exempt "all rules that [the Office of Management and Budget] determines would result in net job creation"; and an amendment "to create an exception for any rule making to carry out the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act." Boswell joined Republicans in opposing one Democratic amendment to study how H.R. 527 would affect the cost of rule making by federal agencies, but Loebsack voted for that amendment too.
Anyone who follows Iowa politics is used to seeing Boswell vote with House Republicans from time to time. Given last month's House vote on the balanced budget constitutional amendment, I'm starting to wonder whether this will become a trend for Loebsack as well. He's not voting like an incumbent who believes his re-election is a slam-dunk. The new second Congressional district leans Democratic, with a partisan voting index of D+4, but Loebsack's current district has a PVI of D+7.
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