OK, we all know that Americans are supposed to be divided upon political lines, but there are some things we can all agree upon, right?
Let’s take babies, for example. We can all agree that babies should be protected from dangerous things, can’t we?
No, apparently we can’t all agree on that.
It sounds like something only a cartoonishly evil supervillain would do. It’s difficult to believe any actual American politician would do it. Yet, it’s actually just taken place.
This week, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to obstruct measures that protect babies from deadly hazards in poorly manufactured foods and toys.
The amendment was offered to the REINS Act, H.R. 26, a law proposed by Republicans that would prevent any Executive Branch agency from enacting a new rule in accordance with laws already passed by Congress. The only way a federal rule to protect Americans could be passed under the REINS Act is if Congress authorizes the action a second time, and within 70 days of the proposal of the rule.
Congress almost never does anything within 70 days.
Furthermore, if the REINS Act is signed into law, for every new rule to protect Americans that is created, another rule that protects Americans will have to be destroyed.
The thing is that Congress already has the power to overrule any particular federal law that it regards as inappropriate. What the REINS Act effectively does is to create a blanket ban on any new administrative rule, regardless of whether the rule has merit or not.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights explains, “Congress has always had the authority to override, clarify, or rewrite the details of administrative actions. But Congress has neither time nor the expertise to micromanage every nuance of regulatory details before they can be allowed to take effect. That is why we have executive branch agencies in the first place.”
When U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee saw this legislation moving forward toward passage in the Republican-controlled Congress, she knew that he couldn’t stop its overall passage. But, she thought, at least we all ought to agree that babies should be protected from harmful and deadly things. She asked her colleague, Hank Johnson, to offer an amendment to the REINS Act on her behalf that would create a special exemption to the REINS Act for executive rules that protect babies.
Johnson took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, and made the following remarks: “If protecting public health and safety means anything, it surely must include the protection of our children. Because of the special vulnerability of young children, any regulation affecting their health and safety must not be delayed. Unfortunately, if this bill passes as written without this amendment, that is exactly what will happen. The young children will be vulnerable to products that are unsafe and that could hurt them. For this reason, Sheila Jackson Lee has offered this amendment, which I support.
An example is a regulation that is meant to protect a child from death or injury from contaminated formula. Such a rule would be impeded – or the promulgation of such a rule and the enactment of that rule would be impeded – by this administration.
This amendment would declare that, in that case, the rule would not apply. It would be exempted from this legislation. Toxic chemicals, dangerous toys, or deadly falls from unsafe products could be avoided. Therefore, this amendment would protect children under those circumstances. Those kinds of rules need to be implemented promptly to save lives. For that reason, the Jackson Lee amendment deserves your support. I hope that you can support it out of your heart.”
There wasn’t a single Republican who voted in favor of allowing the government to continue protecting American babies from new threats to their survival and health. Every single American voted against the Johnson amendment.
How can anyone justify such a thing?
How can Donald Trump seriously consider signing such a bill as the REINS Act into law?