NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Why Congress Must Confront the Administrative State

April 18, 2012

Over the course of the last century, the United States slowly emerged as a formidable administrative state -- one that is run by unelected federal government bureaucrats instead of the elected representatives of the people.  This trend manifests itself in the enormous centralization of power in the executive branch, its cabinet departments and regulatory agencies, says Robert Moffit, a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation.

President Obama's administration serves as the keystone example of how far this change has come: during his three years as president, the executive branch has grown dramatically and has begun overreaching for power.

This is demonstrated first by the unprecedented legislation that has originated from the White House and been pushed through by the bully pulpit:

  • Within weeks of his inauguration, the president signed into law a major expansion of the state-based Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid.
  • He quickly followed this up with the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
  • In 2010, Congress passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, providing for massive and far-reaching financial regulation.
  • And on March 23, 2010, he signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

This legislative agenda was accompanied by unprecedented regulatory action:

  • In 2009 and 2010 alone, federal agencies issued 7,076 final rules.
  • Since 2009, federal agencies have issued 75 major regulations (those with an economic impact of $100 million or more) with an annual additional cost to the economy of $38 billion.
  • Taken altogether, the Small Business Administration last year estimated that the total cost of America's regulatory burden reached $1.75 trillion.

The answer to this rapid growth of the executive branch is that Congress should reclaim its constitutionally mandated place as the originator of laws in the United States.  To this end, Congress must:

  • Cease delegating excessive legislative power to administrative agencies.
  • Make itself accountable for the biggest rules that are produced by the executive branch.
  • Establish a Congressional Office of Regulatory Analysis.
  • Require formal rulemaking for major rules, including hearings and presentation of evidence.

Source: Robert Moffit, "Why Congress Must Confront the Administrative State," Heritage Foundation, April 2, 2012.

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