Politics vs. Principle: Export-Import Bank Edition

On the merits, the case for closing the Export-Import Bank is a slam-dunk. This has made life difficult for the bank’s supporters, especially since the bank will permanently close on June 30 unless Congress reauthorizes its charter. So they are switching to politics.

One of the top items on Congress’ agenda is Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Despite some drawbacks, TPA would make international trade a little freer than it is now. Seeing a point of entry, Ex-Im supporters tried to tie Ex-Im reauthorization into the TPA bill. This way, a Senator who opposes Ex-Im might have to hold his nose and vote for it anyway, since it would be part of the larger TPA bill he supports.

This attempt was rebuffed, and a clean TPA bill is poised to pass the Senate. But Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), both coincidentally from major Ex-Im beneficiary Boeing’s home state, did exact a promise from Senate leadership: the Senate will soon hold a separate vote on Ex-Im reauthorization. This is important, since Ex-Im will close if Congress does nothing.

Since Ex-Im reauthorization is likely to pass the Senate, the political focus moves to the House. Sen. Cantwell tried to get Speaker Boehner to promise to hold a House Ex-Im vote, but he refused. But nor will he get in the way of a vote if members of his own chamber decide to bring one up.

At least 90 House members oppose Ex-Im reauthorization, according to Heritage Action. The Republican Study Committee (RSC) announced its opposition to Ex-Im reauthorization, though not all RSC members share that stance, most notably Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), who is sponsoring an Ex-Im reauthorization bill. Despite this substantial groundswell, a House majority is 218 members, and it remains to be seen if enough other members will stand firm in opposing the bank.

So that’s where the issue stands right now. The merits of Ex-Im were decided long ago—despite affecting less than 2 percent of U.S. exports, the agency has still managed to divert billions of dollars of capital away from deserving businesses, subsidize U.S. firms’ foreign competitors, and cause dozens of corruption cases. Now the question becomes whether politics are stronger than principle. Either way, Congress’ pending answer will be revealing.

CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

The big regulatory news from last week was the publication of the semiannual Unified Agenda, which lists most upcoming regulations from rulemaking agencies at various stages of the regulatory process. It is one of the most important transparency tools we have for keeping an eye on new regulations, which may explain why it was published just as people are getting ready for the long Memorial Day weekend, and why the user interface is surprisingly difficult to use for such a simple document. Take a look at the Unified Agenda here, and you’ll see what I mean.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 49 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 46 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and 26 minutes.
  • So far in 2015, 1,166 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 2,944 new regulations this year, which would be several hundred fewer rules than the usual total of 3,500-plus.
  • Last week, 1,780 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,333 pages the previous week.
  • Currently at 29,819 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 75,301 pages.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Nine such rules have been published so far this year, one in the past week.
  • The total estimated compliance cost of 2015’s economically significant regulations ranges from $1.36 billion to $1.44 billion for the current year.
  • 98 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published so far this year.
  • So far in 2015, 203 new rules affect small businesses; 31 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

17th Century Fart Jokes

A commentary on the rule of law from p. 95 of Nicholas Vincent’s Magna Carta: A Very Short Introduction:

Oliver Cromwell, chief architect of the most violent of the 17th-century revolutions, informed as Lord Protector that he was acting contrary to Magna Carta, is said to have replied that ‘their Magna Farta should not control [Cromwell’s] actions’.

The author also did an excellent podcast with Russ Roberts on EconTalk, which you can listen to here.

CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

It was a slow week despite more than 1,300 Federal Register pages, with just 36 proposed regulations and fewer than 50 final regulations, ranging from spearmint oil to flying over Baghdad.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 46 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 65 the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and 39 minutes.
  • So far in 2015, 1,111 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 2,955 new regulations this year, which would be several hundred fewer rules than the usual total of 3,500-plus.
  • Last week, 1,333 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,609 pages the previous week.
  • Currently at 28,039 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 74,572 pages.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Eight such rules have been published so far this year, none in the past week.
  • The total estimated compliance cost of 2015’s economically significant regulations ranges from $917 million to $970 million for the current year.
  • 92 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published so far this year.
  • So far in 2015, 196 new rules affect small businesses; 30 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and @RegoftheDay on Twitter.

Ten Thousand Commandments

The 2015 edition of Ten Thousand Commandments is out now. The report gives a 30,000-foot view of the federal regulatory state: how many new regulations come out each year (3,500+), how much they cost ($1.88 trillion annually), and other important information, along with a menu of reform ideas.

This kind of big-picture information is readily available for the federal budget, but not the regulatory state. 10KC is an effort to make the government’s most opaque branch a little more transparent.

You can read the whole report here. If you prefer a shorter version, the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial summarizing the study’s main findings, as did Investor’s Business Daily and the Washington Times. Wayne Crews and I also have an op-ed in today’s Fresno Bee:

And although members of Congress like to blame agencies for these costs, lawmakers share part of the blame… While Congress passed 224 laws last year, agencies issued 16 times more new regulations – 3,554 new rules in total. This huge disparity between laws passed and regulations issued by unelected agency officials can be described as an “unconstitutionality index,” which averaged 26 regulations issued for every law passed over the last decade.

Slow News Day

Politico: J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter character not named after Sen. Elizabeth Warren

CEI’s Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

Last week’s raft of new rules covers everything from school lunch workers to Flugzeugbau gliders.

On to the data:

  • Last week, 65 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, the same number as the previous week.
  • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 35 minutes.
  • So far in 2015, 1,065 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 2,992 new regulations this year, which would be several hundred fewer rules than the usual total of 3,500-plus.
  • Last week, 1,609 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,975 pages the previous week.
  • Currently at 26,706 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 74,694 pages.
  • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Eight such rules have been published so far this year, one in the past week.
  • The total estimated compliance cost of 2015’s economically significant regulations ranges from $917 million to $970 million for the current year.
  • Ninety final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published so far this year.
  • So far in 2015, 189 new rules affect small businesses; 30 of them are classified as significant.

Highlights from selected final rules published last week:

For more data, see Ten Thousand Commandments and follow @10KC and@RegoftheDay on Twitter.