GOP members of Congress look forward to reforming federal policies

US Senate and House Republicans anticipate working well with President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration to reverse energy and environmental policies and regulations they believe were imposed unconstitutionally during Barack Obama’s presidency and earlier, four GOP federal lawmakers said on Dec. 8.

“The government soon will be under the unified control of the Republican Party, and I for one can’t wait,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Member Mike Lee (Utah) said.

“If there’s one word that describes the Obama administration’s approach to energy, it’s been centralization,” Lee said during a day-long conference cosponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Heritage Foundation. “For 8 years, he and his foot soldiers have worked to centralize how energy producers run their businesses. The question that needs to be asked is who decides—state or federal regulators, elected officials, or unelected bureaucrats.”

Speakers directed much of their ire at the US Environmental Protection Agency, which they said has imposed regulations without going through the required rulemaking process or explaining the underlying science. They also applauded the president-elect’s selection a day earlier of Oklahoma Atty. Gen. E. Scott Pruitt as the next EPA administrator (OGJ Online, Dec. 7, 2016).

“It’s a commonsense appointment. With Texas AG Ken Paxton, he fought to try and control those people,” said Rep. Pete Olson (Tex.), who will become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee in the 115th Congress. “I will be excited to have him come before our committee because he’ll say things I’ve been waiting for an EPA administrator to say.”

LaMar Smith (Tex.), House Science, Space, and Technology Committee chairman, said, “The American people have every right to be suspicious when EPA uses dubious science to reach conclusions it wants. Americans are tired of the administration’s scare tactics, particularly efforts to link weather events to carbon emissions. They showed this in last month’s elections.”

Noting that his committee issued EPA a record 25 subpoenas for information during Obama’s presidency, Smith said the administration showed contempt for Congress as it tried to implement its environmental agenda. “The Clean Power Plan’s heavy-handed regulations and arbitrary emissions limits will do lasting damage to our economy. Regulations should be based on sound science, not science fiction,” he asserted.

Make reforms permanent

It also will be important not just to reform federal policies, but also make the reforms permanent, speakers emphasized. Science, Space, and Technology Committee member Gary J. Palmer (Ala.) noted that HR 5499, which he introduced on June 16 as the Agency Accountability Act, would require any federal agency which receives a fee, fine, penalty, or proceeds from a settlement to deposit the money in the general treasury and not spend it without a congressional appropriation. Lee introduced a similar bill, S. 3199, on July 13.

“If an agency is spending money that Congress didn’t appropriate, it’s operating outside the Constitution,” Palmer explained. “We have identified $385 million in fines which have been collected, but we haven’t had a hand in how the money has been used. I think we need to restore constitutional authority. This could be the single most important thing to come out of this next administration. Otherwise, agencies will continue to find ways to bypass Congress and turn us into a bunch of elected bystanders.”

Smith and Palmer both said that EPA resisted providing the committee information about the science behind its regulations during the last 8 years. “Having a guy like Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator means we’ll get documents we ask for. But if we pass this Agency Accountability Act, we’ll be able to make them accountable and keep Congress able to work for the people,” Palmer said.

“For years, administrations have taken power away from elected representatives and giving it to bureaucrats. For President-elect Trump, this means undoing several Obama administration regulations under the Congressional Review Act. These include the Interior Department’s methane emissions rule, which conflicts with new requirements that Utah has put in place already,” said Lee.

“Much of this can be accomplished within the administration’s first 180 days, but it also will require an attitude adjustment within the federal agencies,” Lee told his Heritage Foundation audience. “That’s why I’m so encouraged by Scott Pruitt’s selection to be EPA administrator. As Oklahoma’s AG, he’s been pushed around by Washington regulators. I’m confident he will remind EPA regulators that they need to work more closely with states.”

Contact Nick Snow at

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