What others say: Congress should leave payroll, emissions regulations

  • Thursday, May 4, 2017 9:27pm
  • Opinion

There’s only about a week to go before time runs out on fast-track procedures that congressional Republicans have been using to repeal regulations finalized in the last months of the Obama administration. But still more damage could be in store.

So far, President Trump has signed 13 repeal measures passed by Congress, harming worker safety, environmental protection and consumer privacy. To put that number into perspective, before now, Congress had revoked only one rule using the fast-track process — in 2001.

Now the fates of two important protections remain threatened as the Senate decides whether to follow the lead of the House and vote to repeal them.

One of them allows states to establish payroll-deduction retirement accounts for private-sector workers who have no retirement coverage at work.

Another makes energy companies limit harmful emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas.

The retirement regulation, which allows states to provide millions of employees with a convenient, low-cost way to save for retirement, is also consistent with Republicans’ traditional support for states’ rights. So, repealing the rule would violate both the interest of the people and Republicans’ own professed ideology — in order to curry favor with big financial firms that fear competition.

The vote to repeal the retirement rule, which could come as soon as Wednesday, will be close, with Vice President Mike Pence possibly having to cast a tiebreaking vote — a dubious victory.

The rule to curb methane is opposed by powerful oil and gas interests, and, not surprisingly, by many in Congress who receive campaign contributions from those interests. But its value is indisputable. Capturing methane keeps the air cleaner and reduces emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It would have the support of most Americans, who — regardless of party affiliation — tell pollsters that measures to restrict emissions are good solutions to climate and pollution problems. And it could be a benefit for industry, since the captured methane can be sold on the market. After Colorado carried out a similar rule, natural gas production increased.

Preserving these rules would allow Senate Republicans to show they have some concerns for the needs of real people. The regulatory rollbacks passed by Congress and signed by President Trump so far have favored broad corporate interests or narrow special interests at the expense of human health, safety and security. For example, one of the four major environmental reversals undid a rule that would have required coal companies to keep toxic debris from mountaintop mining out of waterways. One of four reversals of labor-related rules stopped a regulation that would have required federal contractors to disclose labor law violations when bidding for government work. A gun-control rule to ensure that mentally incapacitated people would be flagged in background checks for firearms purchases was reversed, as was a rule to prohibit internet companies from collecting and selling customers’ data without their permission.

The Republican-controlled Congress and Mr. Trump have made their point about deregulation — and Americans will have to live with their decisions. If they spare the two remaining rules on their hit list, corporate America would do just fine and the American people would be helped.

— The New York Times, May 3

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