Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Hearing on “The Federal Government on Autopilot: Delegation of Regulatory Authority to an Unaccountable Bureaucracy” Before the Executive Overreach Task Force


Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers,Jr.
Today’s hearing is the 32nd anti-regulatory hearing that we have had since the beginning of the 112th Congress. The anti-regulatory fervor of some in Congress is no doubt passionate and heartfelt.

But, as I have noted repeatedly during the 31 previous hearings we have had on this topic, regulation is vital to protecting everyday Americans from a myriad of harms. And, broad agency authority is crucial to ensuring a well-run regulatory system that promotes public health and safety, while providing certainty for business.

So as we consider our witnesses’ testimony, we should keep the following in mind.

To begin with, the broad delegation of authority by Congress to administrative agencies is constitutional. During our first Task Force hearing, we heard testimony from some witnesses that called into constitutional doubt the entire notion of Congress delegating authority to an Executive Branch agency.

It is true that the Constitution provides that all legislative power is vested in the Congress and that Congress cannot completely delegate this power.

The Supreme Court, however, has recognized that the Constitution does not prevent Congress from obtaining the assistance of the other branches of government.

In fact, as the Court noted in Mistretta v. United States, its decisions in this area have “been driven by a practical understanding that, in our increasingly complex society, replete with ever-changing and more technical problems, Congress simply cannot do its job absent an ability to delegate power under broad general directives.”

That recognition, in turn, highlights the central role of regulation and of administrative agencies in addressing a broad spectrum of harms in our modern society.

Without question, regulations provide critical protections, such as ensuring the safety of the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the cars we drive, and the places where we work. These matters require highly technical expertise and sometimes years of study in order to address.

After all, how many House Members have the knowledge and time to determine exactly how many parts per million of carbon monoxide would be acceptable to ensure safe air to breathe?

How many Senators are equipped to determine the proper amount of air pressure that is necessary to ensure that a train’s braking system works properly? I would guess that the answer is “not too many.”

Finally, Congress already has at its disposal a number of tools to ensure due process and democratic accountability with respect to agency actions.

Most obviously, Congress can always rescind or limit the scope of delegation if it so chooses. Congress also has the power of the purse to limit an agency’s power or its ability to implement a rule.

The fact that congressional opponents of regulation often lack the political support to do these things does not mean that checks do not exist.
           
With these points in mind, I look forward to our witnesses’ testimony.
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