Lawmakers Pass Bill to ‘SCRUB’ Away Unneeded Federal Regulations

Published February 19, 2016

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives approved a pair of bills to help identify and remove unnecessary federal regulations and increase the difficulty of passing new, extraneous regulations in the future.

The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act (SCRUB Act), introduced by Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), and the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act (SRDSA), introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), were both passed by the House on January 12, and sent to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

The SCRUB Act, if signed into law, would create a bipartisan commission for reviewing and identifying outdated federal regulations. SRDSA would help limit lobbyist groups’ ability to affect federal policy through litigation and other forms of “lawfare.”

Addressing Problems with Rulemaking

James Broughel, manager of the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center, says the bills address a set of serious problems with the way the federal government operates.

“The House of Representatives is bringing attention to two problems that arise within the current regulatory system,” Broughel said. “First, there is the problem of regulatory accumulation. Federal agencies have lots of incentives to add new rules to the books but very few incentives to eliminate old rules that aren’t working as intended. As the Code of Federal Regulations grows each year, understanding it becomes increasingly difficult, and navigating the complexity of the legal system is harder and harder to do. This problem can be most profound for small businesses that don’t have the high-paid compliance attorneys that big corporations employ.”


Broughel says limiting the power of outside special-interest groups over the rulemaking process is important.

“Another problem results from so-called ‘sue-and-settle’ lawsuits,” Broughel said. “These are situations where a special-interest group files a friendly lawsuit against an agency, knowing the agency will settle and agree to a court-ordered timeline for a new regulation. Often people within the agency and the special-interest group want the new regulation.

“This is a type of backdoor rulemaking, whereby agencies are able to limit the public’s ability to participate in the rulemaking process,” Broughel said. “This is not only undemocratic, it prevents rules from receiving more attention from economists, scientists, and other experts as rules are rushed out the door to meet a court-imposed deadline.”

‘A Good First Step’

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says the SCRUB Act is a clear win for taxpayers.

“The SCRUB Act, creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the costs of various regulations and recommend outdated or counterproductive regulations that could be repealed, is a good first step to pruning back the overregulation that slows economic growth and kills jobs,” Norquist said. “I would hope the next step is to create a regulatory commission, based on the model of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission that has successfully recommended unnecessary military bases to be closed unless Congress [votes] to maintain them.”

D. Brady Nelson ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.