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Every day is a new wave of horrors unleashed by the Trump administration and one of the hardest parts of the onslaught is figuring out where to focus your attention. Is it Trump’s executive orders? His continued perpetuation of lies and conspiracy theories that feed his ego? His cabinet picks? Yes, all of those things. But there’s another thing that’s happening right now that also deserves your alarm: Republicans in Congress, emboldened by Trump’s promise to support them carte blanche, are moving to destroy the federal regulations the Obama administration put in place to protect the environment, the economy, and public education. The centerpiece of this push is a bill called the REINS Act. It has already passed the House vote (237-187, mostly along party lines) and is making its way to the Senate.
What are regulations anyway?
Deregulation springs from the Republican belief that if really rich people have unfettered access to even more wealth, everyone will benefit. It doesn’t matter how many times this malarky has been disproven throughout history, Republicans cling to it like the tattered copies of their beloved Ayn Rand paperbacks. President Obama made a historic number of executive decisions about regulations, in large part because the unregulated financial industry’s predatory lending habits nearly caused the complete collapse of our economy, and he was tasked with fixing it as soon as he arrived in office.
His administration also used regulations to help cleanup the environment; for example, a 2014 tailpipe emissions regulation, or a regulation eliminating methane gas from natural gas pipelines, or a regulation to keep coal mining companies from blasting the tops off of mountains near natural water sources. When Congress passes a bill, like the Clean Air Act, they leave the implementation and enforcement of the bill’s necessary regulations in the hands of the experts at the corresponding federal agencies.
What will REINS do?
The REINS Act will force all federal regulations that cost over $100 million to be submitted to Congress, after which Congress will have 70 days to approve funding for the regulation, or it will die. The current incarnation of REINS will retroactively apply to any regulations passed in the last ten years, meaning Congress can defund hundreds of regulations at one time once the Senate ratifies the bill and President Trump signs it into law.
Deregulation fits right in line with Trump’s “drain the swamp” bullshit. In a meeting with billionaire industry leaders yesterday, Trump said, “The one thing that surprised me going around and meeting with a lot of the people at this table and meeting with a lot of the small business owners, if I gave them a choice of this massive tax decrease that we’re giving for business — for everybody, but for business, or the cutting down of regulation, if I took a vote I think the regulation wins 100 percent. I have people that tell me they have more people working on regulations than they have doing product and it is out of control. It has gotten out of control.”
Who will deregulation hurt the most?
The short answer is: everyone who’s not super rich/wants to breathe clean air. Axios has a good run-down of the government organizations that will be impacted most swiftly by REINS. The EPA is going to be the major target of deregulation. The war has already started there, and as Salon points out, it’s only going to get worse:
Trump’s aides also told Bloomberg over the weekend that the newly-elected president plans to rescind President Obama’s directive that all federal agencies take climate change into account during their formal environmental reviews. President Trump will also reverse Obama’s executive order placing a moratorium on selling coal from federal lands until a new way to calculate royalties is resolved.
Other agencies that will be hit hard include the Department of Education, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy.
Next up, REINS hits the Senate floor. Assuming it passes there (and it seems highly likely that it will), Trump has already stated that he will sign it into law immediately.