House Republicans are aiming to reign in the powers of the executive branch in sweeping new proposals being unveiled Thursday, reports say.
The 22-page recommendation of the GOP task force to be unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan — posted Thursday by the Washington Post
— calls for Congress to reassert its authority over drafting laws and deciding how federal funds are spent, and reign in what the lawmakers see as the "fourth branch" of government — the executive bureaucracy.
"There is no power more consequential. … Yet for decades, Congress has let this power atrophy — thereby depriving the people of their voice," the report states.
"The executive and judicial branches have vastly increased their power — sometimes with and sometimes without Congress's consent," the report adds. "In addition, the regulatory state has grown into a sort of fourth branch, which though part of the executive has accumulated all three power — to make, enforce, and interpret the law."
The task force recommendations include: to regularly sunset the authorizing statutes for federal agencies and programs — the Environmental Protection Agency is specifically mentioned — allowing Congress to regularly readjust their missions or axe them; to reform the rulemaking process and write tighter laws to give agencies less latitude to issue regulations and Congress more power to overturn ones it doesn’t like; and to reassert the "power of the purse" through reforms to the budget process and a new "strategic focus" on appropriations and oversight, the Post reports.
Others call for reforming the Federal Records Act, improving the Freedom of Information Act to improve access and making agency spending data more accessible and transparent.
The task force notes Congress "bears much responsibility" for letting the balance between the branches of government get out of whack, Politico reports.
"While it cannot undo this decades-long development in one fell swoop, it should take immediate action to restore its authority by explicitly authorizing agency activity and by limiting its delegation of lawmaking power," the task force report states.
Some of the recommendations could trigger legal and political showdowns, Politico reports, including those "strengthening enforcement" of subpoenas and targeting specific programs or agency offices via appropriations bills.
"While many of the most conservative House Republicans speak forcefully of using the 'power of the purse' to force the president's hand, the 2013 federal shutdown also showed how blunt an instrument that is, and how ineffective it can be," Politico writes.
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