Alexander: Congress interested in “weeding the garden” of bad laws, regulations

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) last week discussed his fight against federal overreach, including the issue of overregulation in higher education and the Obama administration’s constant use of regulatory guidance.

The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Alexander said during his keynote speech  at the American Action Forum that Congress is committed to improving the situation by “weeding the garden” of the many bad laws and unnecessary regulations that currently exist. 

“Nothing used to make me madder as governor than to look up toward Washington and see some member of Congress coming up with a big idea, holding a press conference, passing a law, taking credit for some great leap forward in sending the bill to me as governor,” Alexander said. “Then the next thing I know, that congressman would be home in Tennessee at the Lincoln Day Dinner or the Jackson Day Dinner giving a big speech about local control.”

Regarding overregulation in higher education, Alexander explained that the issue is a priority for the Senate education committee.

“The case of higher education has been the piling up of well-intentioned regulations that strangle our more than 6,000 colleges and universities,” the Senator continued. “The case of regulatory guidance is the inclination of our legislative bureaucrats to forget why we had an American Revolution, which was against a king. The agencies appear to be using guidance, which is free of notice and comment requirements—that means that people don’t have any say about it— to put binding requirements on American businesses and colleges and universities.”

Alexander said the Senate education committee is working together with a “bipartisan effort to examine these regulations – to identify which ones are the problems, and see if we can get rid of them or simplify them.”

“More than a year ago, four members of the committee—Senator Mikulski and Senator Bennet, two Democrats, and Senator Burr and I, two Republicans—asked a group of distinguished educators to examine the federal rules and regulations for colleges and universities,” Alexander said. “They returned to us a document with 59 specific recommendations—requirements and areas for Congress and the Department of Education to consider —including 10 that were especially problematic. They told us that the colleges and universities were operating, in their words, in a ‘jungle of red tape.’”

Alexander said that he is equally concerned with the fact that some federal agencies are using guidance to make new laws without allowing any notice and comment from the public, which should be legally required.

“It’s very important that Congress make the law,” he continued. “It’s very important because Congress answers to the people. That’s the way our government ought to work. When Congress isn’t doing its job, the people can throw the bums out. (However), it is very hard for the voters to do that to an unelected bureaucrat.”

To that end, Alexander concluded by discussing his plans to begin a project with Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), examining whether agencies are abusing guidance and determining the steps needed to correct the issue.