The Republican smokescreen behind which to deconstruct the administrative state
In a recent one of McMorris Rodgers’ emails, the emails she hopes are targeted to her devoted followers, she writes, “…we [she and her Republican defenders of the fossil fuel industry] advanced the Save Our Gas Stoves Actto protect your choice as a consumer by prohibiting the U.S. Department of Energy from banning gas stoves.” (The bold and the link are hers.) The title of the bill alone is a perfect example of Republican fear tactics. It implies, as is commonly put forward on right wing media, that the government is about to invade your home and remove your gas stove. In fact, H.R. 1640 is a remarkably short, two-page bill (click and have a look) that prohibits the Secretary of Energy from imposing “an energy conservation standard for kitchen ranges or ovens” unless it is “not likely to result in the unavailability in the United States of a type (or class) of product based on what type of fuel the product consumes.” [the bold is mine]
A more complete and accurate title for this bill that originated in McMorris Rodgers’ Committee on Energy and Commerce would be the “Freedom to Pollute Our Indoor Environment For Decades More Act” or the “Encourage More Burning of Fossil Fuels Act”. Remember the huge flap Republicans raised about energy standards for lighting, the standards that nudged us to the now ubiquitous LED lighting that seems to last forever while its use conserves energy? The stove issue is much the same thing—and just as profoundly disingenuous. Absolutely no one is coming for your gas stove. This straw man, fear-mongering framing is a Republican/fossil fuel industry-manufactured outrage meant to preempt intelligent discussion of indoor air quality and encourage the burning of ever more fossil fuels. (See Doug Porter’s Substack article for more detail.)
The good news (but just for the time being) is that McMorris Rodgers’ touted H.R.1640 “Save Our Gas Stoves Act” will not make it to the House floor for consideration until Republicans iron out there differences. For now, this bill and three other anti-regulation bills are kept off the floor by legislative machinations that are bit arcane—but of paramount importance to note.
On June 6, a procedural bill, H.Res.463, was put up for a vote on the House floor by Republican leadership. It failed with only 206 (all Republican) Aye votes against 220 Nay votes. The Nays included every Democrat and, tellingly, 12 fractious Republicans, including nine members of the “Freedom” Caucus, Republicans who would ordinarily have supported this effort. This ill-fated bill came after speaker McCarthy angered far right wing Republicans with his negotiation of the debt ceiling bill. The failure to pass H.Res.463 is a spectacular failure of Republican House leadership. An unwritten Republican House rule is that you don’t bring anything to the floor for a vote unless you are sure you are nearly certain you have all the votes necessary to pass the measure. This failed vote on this Resolution is more likely a sign of a brewing revolt within the Republican House majority than it is of any real disapproval of the purpose of the four bills that were temporarily scuttled.
This procedural bill that failed, H.Res.463, would have “provided for consideration” of these four bills on the House floor, advancing them out of committee. Two of the bills, H.R.1640, the one we’ve been discussing, and H.R.1615, the “Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act”, both concern gas stoves and feed on the Republican-stoked fear of home invasion and gas stove seizures.
The other two bills this Resolution would have brought up for consideration are much broader and far reaching and much less noticed and understood pet projects of McMorris Rodgers and the modern day Republican Party. H.R.277, the REINS Act of 2023 (aka Regulations of the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act) is a grave and largely unrecognized threat from Republicans to dismantle the rule-making function of Executive agencies that has been standard for at least the last half century. REINS has been “put in the hopper” anew in every Congress for years and years—and McMorris Rodgers is a consistent co-sponsor. Understand that this consistent re-submission of a big idea bill year after year, this sort of dogged persistence, is often what is required to enact a new law. (Remember all those years Republican rhetoric and votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Yes, like that.) REINS actually passed the House in 2017 in the early reign of Trump, but never made it to the Senate floor. This year H.R.277 REINS has 182 co-sponsors, every one of them a Republican.
REINS would “amend chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, to provide that major rules of the executive branch shall have no force or effect unless a joint resolution of approval is enacted into law.” In plain English REINS would give whatever majority that existed at the time a second crack at blocking regulations painstakingly developed and based on an enabling law passed by a different majority in an earlier Congress. The obstruction won’t even require Congressional action. A hostile (or over-busy) Congressional majority of the time could kill a developed regulation by passively ignoring it. REINS is a recipe for federal governing paralysis that would suit modern-day Republican anti-government, anti-regulation orthodoxy just fine. Enactment of REINS would come close to Grover Norquist’s goal of shrinking the federal government to a size where it could be “drowned in the bathtub”.
REINS is just one of a suite of Republican wishlist bills that aim to “deconstruct the administrative state” (Steve Bannon’s words) by fundamentally changing the way government operates. The fourth bill that would have come up for floor discussion had the June 6 H.Res.463 passed was of the same ilk. H.R.288 SOPRA (Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2023) is more subtle than REINS but works toward the same end. SOPRA changes the U.S. Code to give the Judiciary more power to strike down the regulations developed by the Executive agencies.
You can be sure that if Republicans ever hold the presidency and simultaneously achieve working majorities in the both houses of Congress (a federal “trifecta”) they will pass a version of all of these bills. Once enacted as law these bills would cripple the function of the Executive branch, concentrate power in the Congress, and devolve power to the individual states, a profound re-arrangement of our governing structure.
McMorris Rodgers and nearly all her Republican colleagues have a goal to “deconstruct the administrative state”. Effectively that means neutering the function of the Executive agencies that protect our health and safety. It all starts with a simple lie: “They’re coming for your gas stove!”
We need better representation in Congress.
Keep to the high ground,