MacIver News Service | January 30, 2018
By Jake Lubenow
MADISON, Wis. – How Washington bureaucrats carry out national policy is increasingly being determined by an eclectic assortment of blog posts, letters, bulletins and other informal guidance as a way to avoid congressional oversight, and Senator Ron Johnson has a plan to get them under control.
Agencies are allowed to create internal rules to help them enforce federal law. However, those rules are still subject to congressional oversight.
During the Obama Administration, agencies found a way around that using semantics. They no longer created “rules,” but simply issued “guidance.” The Government Accountability Office recently said there’s no difference between the two, and Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) wants to take action.
Johnson introduced a bill this month he calls the Guidance Out Of Darkness (GOOD) Act. It would require all federal agencies to post their guidance on special webpages where Congress, and the public, can easily review them.
“This common-sense bill would provide much-needed transparency to American businesses and consumers,” Johnson said in a press release.
However, even if successful, Johnson’s plan would only scratch the surface of the problem. First of all, Congress does not have the authority to examine rules that over 60 days old. Secondly, Congress never really used its oversight authority. It only conducted two reviews in the past twenty, once during the Clinton Administration and once in 2017. That means most administrative rules are firmly entrenched in the bureaucracy.
Senator Ron Johnson proposed the GOOD Act on January 11th and has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where it faces its first hurdle.