Republicans Are Gutting Regulations and the Only Winners Will Be the Super Rich

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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.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. It’s like every time I open the internet there’s some new horror to read about and I am sick and sad and scared all of the time. I don’t know how to feel these feelings for four years. (If we all even make it that long.)

    • Yep yep yep.
      I’m just so mad all the time. Generally I channel it into into putting punny insults on buttons and calling my reps or enjoy friends and coziness and yadda yadda BUT sometimes I just want a physical outlet like digging a really big garden or welding a giant sculpture or yelling really loudly at the ocean.

      • I am also trying to do things that are Good and Productive as much as possible but a lot of the time my dumb brain is like “Well we’re all gonna be dead anyway so what is the point,” bc I very much am terrified we are all going to get nuked. BUT it’s so good and so productive to call reps or even just take care of yaself and I am trying hard to focus on THAT and not our inevitable doom.

  2. Yikes! Thanks for this reporting, Heather. I just called my Republican senator’s local office a bit ago about this and left a message. I’m not sure whether it has much chance of convincing him, but worth a try, I guess. Then I saved the phone number directly from “Recents” to my contacts. I’m sure I’ll need it soon enough. Maybe I’ll call the Democratic senator’s office too, for a change of pace.

    • Trust me, it’s not a change of pace to call our Democratic leaders. As far as I’m concerned they are just as bad because they are just falling in line with these idiots. There is no place to “work” with these people on policy and the more a bunch of Democrats roll out and say stuff like ‘give him a chance or we have to find things to work with the president on’ I physically cringe. If as a Democrat you aren’t willing to stand up and say that none of these idiots Trump has given loyalty position isn’t fit, then what’s going to happen when big pieces of legislation go in front of them? They are going to fold, that’s what! So when our Democratic leaders let people like Ben Carson lead HUD or the wrestling queen run the SBA I know they aren’t serious about anything, because if you don’t have enough guts to stand up to that…you aren’t going to do a damn thing when Trump and his cronies say that gay people don’t exist or Black lives don’t matter!
      When they can’t stand in truth with the small things, they definitely won’t have our backs on the big. So hold the Democrats accountable first because I guarantee you, nothing phases the Republicans in their witch hunts and ignorance!

      • What I meant was mostly that it would be easier for me to call the Democratic senator’s office – talking on the phone in general is awkward and sometimes nerve-wracking for me, so at least that way I could imagine there would be a receptive audience.

        • Sorry! I didn’t mean to sound harsh and after rereading it, I realize it sounded that way. I’m just so frustrated. I’ve been calling my Senators and House members since Monday leaving messages because no one picks up. I live in VA and this year we are having a major Governor’a race and it scares me because the Democrats are vulnerable and won’t actually listen to its constituents. So frustrated but super sorry for sounding bitchy.

          • That’s fine. We’re all frustrated, I think. I do know it’s important to hold even the Democrats accountable, since sometimes they do go along with iffy things. But it’s also nice to get to start a message with “I want to thank senator Bennet [I’m in Colorado] for speaking up about ___ and also to ask that he resist ___” instead of only expressing concern.

  3. Rachel Maddow opened her segment last night with a story about an oil spill in Saskatchewan, and used that to lead into a story about the 600+ earthquakes that wreaked havoc upon Oklahoma during Scott Pruitt’s time as OK Attorney General, and now I hear about THISSSSS and I just want to scream at all my Canadian friends and family who are all “but Trump won’t affect us!” about how climate change is a global problem and the environment does not respect national borders and WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE.

      • Oh trust me, I’m well aware! Trump is a symptom of a worldwide problem – we’ve seen the effects of that in the US, with Brexit, with Marine LePen in France, in other European countries where far-right parties are gaining traction – and it’s in Canada too. And what’s Trudeau doing about it? Signing off on pipelines and hawking a useless online survey about electoral reform.

  4. “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.” This sentence is beautiful and so sadly true! Thanks for breaking down the REINS Act for us, Heather, this type of reporting on Autostraddle is so important in the era of President Cheeto!

  5. REINS is what people in the legal community like to call a “legislative veto” and it is most certainly unconstitutional and will most certainly fail. Even the most conservative judge would be hard-pressed to find footing to uphold it.

    • With the new supreme court justice being selected by Trump, do we still have the votes for judicial checks (as in checks and balances we learned about in civics 101) on the influence of the executive branch at the federal level? I’m not in the legal field; sound like you could give us some inside info on this aspect hopefully?

  6. Soooooo…. anyone want to start a mars colony with me and get out while we still can?

  7. I need to like…make a folder of reminders of how not to get fatigued and totally nihilistic about this.

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