A Senate panel took a major step Wednesday in passing a number of bills to keep Washington's regulatory overreach in check, setting the stage for a vote on the Senate floor.
The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee passed a half dozen bills that included the Midnight Rules Relief Act, which targets rules passed in the waning days of the previous administration.
The bill would make it easier to repeal a basketful of eleventh-hour regulations in one fell swoop, rather than passing on resolution of disapproval per regulation, which is time consuming and has a strict deadline to meet to be effective.
The House passed its versions of the regulatory reform bills months ago, but it's been slow-going in the Senate, which has a steeper threshold for support even though Republicans hold the majority in both chambers.
The Midnight Rules bill was sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., but the regulatory reform effort didn't stop with Republicans. Major reform bills passed Wednesday also came from Democrats, such as Sen. Heidi Heitkamp from the oil-producing and fracking state of North Dakota.
The panel passed her bill, the bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act, with Ohio Republican Rob Portman as co-sponsor. The bill would require agencies to only issue regulations that are first judged to be cost effective.
The bipartisan support for the reform bill could mean it stands a better chance at surviving opposition when it comes up for a vote on the chamber's floor. Recently, Democrats were successful in rejecting a measure to repeal methane regulations on the oil and natural gas industry. So, despite Republicans having the majority, it doesn't mean everything gets through, especially with bills needing to clear 60 votes to even be considered.
The midnight rules bill passed by an 8-6 roll call vote, which is a slim margin that reflects party preference. The bill's co-sponsors are all Republicans.
Heitkamp's bill passed by a bigger margin with a 9-5 vote.
Other regulatory reform bills passed Wednesday included: the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017, which passed 8-6; the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, which also passed 8-6; and the Early Participation in Regulations Act of 2017, which grabbed an 11-3 roll call vote.
Heitkamp also sponsored the Early Participation in Regulations Act. It would require all agencies to issue advanced copies of regulations 90 days before they are published in the Federal Register. Thtat would provide more time for lawmakers to digest and understand the regulations before they move forward under the normal course toward finalization.