WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the U.S. Senate floor yesterday, Senator Rand Paul delivered the following remarks regarding his opposition to the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (“TSCA Modernization Act,” H.R. 2576) and the dangers of new, overreaching federal regulations. During the speech, Sen. Paul argued that while some regulations may appear beneficial, in actuality they are unconstitutional and have harmful, long-term consequences.
A transcript of Sen. Paul’s remarks as prepared for delivery and video of his floor speech are available below.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. PAUL’S FLOOR SPEECH
Sen. Paul: Milton Friedman once said that if we gave the federal government control of the Sahara Desert within five years there would be a shortage of sand.
I tend to agree and it worries me anytime a consensus builds to federalize anything.
I have spent the past week reading this bill, this sweeping federal takeover of chemical regulations and I am now more worried than I was before I read the bill.
Most worrisome, beyond the specifics of the bill, is the creeping infestation of the business community with the idea that the argument is no longer about minimizing regulations but about making regulations regular.
Businesses seem to just want uniformity of regulation as opposed to minimization of regulation. A good analogy is that of how business responds to malingerers who fake slip and fall injuries. Some businesses choose to limit expenses by settling for small amounts. Some brave businesses choose to legally defend themselves against all nuisance claims.
Federalizing the chemical regulations is settling with the slip and fall malingerer and hoping he or she will keep their extortion at a reasonable level.
In the process, though, we will have abandoned principle. We will have given up the state laboratories where economic success and regulatory restraint are aligned. It is no accident that the regulatory restraint occurs in states that host chemical companies and ensures that state legislatures will be well aware of the economic impact of over-bearing regulation.
Federalization of regulations separates the people who benefit from a successful chemical industry from the unelected bureaucrats who will write the regulations. Once that tie is severed, the joint incentive to minimize regulations is lost.
In fact, this legislation explicitly bans the consideration of a regulation’s economic cost when deciding which chemicals will be put in the high risk category. Once a chemical has been labeled high risk, the legal liability and stigma that will attach will effectively ban the substance without the effect on the economy ever being considered. Regardless of what the final regulations actually say, the subsequent public reaction and lawsuits will have the effect of driving the chemical out of the market. If we are to ignore the cost of regulations, if we are to ignore the relationship between regulations and job loss, there is basically no limit to the fervor and ferocity that will be unleashed by bureaucrats whose perpetual mandate is to regulate.
I always thought that we needed more balance not less in deciding on new regulations. I always thought that we should balance the environment AND the economy. Instead of balancing the economic effects and the environmental effects this bill explicitly says to regulators your mandate is to regulate, period. This bill explicitly says that the economic impact of regulations is only considered after the EPA has decided to regulate.
Is this really the best we can do?
Sometimes I wonder, if we deserve the government we have? When the business community gets together and seeks federal regulation, I wonder. Have they not paid any attention to what has been going on in Washington? Are they unaware of the devastating explosion of federal regulations? Are they unaware that today’s overbearing regulations were yesterday’s benign advisories?
Are they unaware that the most benign and well-intended regulations of the 1970’s are now written and re-written by a President mad with regulatory zeal?
For those who are unaware of the devastation the EPA has wreaked upon our people, I request that you come and visit Eastern Kentucky or West Virginia. The EPA’s war on coal has spread a trail of despair amongst a proud people. Many of these counties have unemployment over twice the national rate.
The regulations that are crippling and destroying our jobs in Kentucky were not passed by Congress. These job-killing regulations are monsters that emerged from the toxic swamp of big government bureaucrats at the EPA. The Obama/Clinton War on Coal largely came from regulations that were extensions of seemingly bland well intended laws from the 1970’s.
Laws like the Clean Water Act were well intended – legislating that you can’t discharge pollutants into a navigable stream. I’m for that. But somehow the courts and the bureaucrats came to decide that dirt was a pollutant and your backyard just might have a “nexus” to a puddle which has a nexus to a ditch which was frequented by a migratory bird that might have flown from the ditch to the Great Lakes. Ergo, the EPA can now jail you for putting dirt on your own land. Now, since that craziness has infected the EPA, we have the Feds asserting regulatory control of over the majority of the land in most states.
Will the federal takeover of chemical regulations eventually morph into a war on chemical companies similar to what happened to the coal industry? I don’t know but it concerns me enough to examine this bill closely.
Anytime we are told that everyone is for something, anytime we are told that we should stand aside and not challenge the status quo, I become suspicious that it is precisely the time someone needs to look very closely to what is happening.
I also worry about federal laws pre-empting state laws. Admittedly, sometimes states such as California go overboard and regulate businesses out of existence, or at least, chase them to another state.
However, California’s excess is Texas’ benefit. I grew up along the Texas Coast. Many of my family members work in the chemical industry. Texas became a haven because of its location and its reasonableness with regard to regulation. Because Texas and Louisiana have such a mutually beneficial relationship with the chemical industry it is hard to imagine a time when the Texas or Louisiana legislature would vote to over-regulate or ignore the cost to jobs of new regulations.
But it is much easier to imagine a time when 47 other states gang up on Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma to ratchet up a federal regulatory regime to the point at which it chokes and suffocates businesses and their jobs.
Think it can’t happen? Come and visit me in Kentucky.
How can it be that the very businesses who face this threat support the federalization of regulations? I’m sure they are sincere. They want uniformity and predictability. Admirable desires. They don’t want the national standard of regulations to devolve to the worst standard of regulation. (California regulators . . . We’re talking about you here).
And yet, the bill before us grandfathers in California’s over-bearing regulations. It only prevents them from getting worse.
But everyone must realize, that this bill also pre-empts friendly states like Texas and Louisiana from continuing to be friendly states. As federal regulations gradually or quickly grow, Texas and Louisiana will no longer be able to veto the excesses of Washington. Regulations that never would pass the Texas or Louisiana legislature will see limited opposition in Washington.
Don’t believe me? Come and visit me in Kentucky!
Then why in the world would businesses come to Washington and ask to be regulated?
Nothing perplexes me more or makes me madder than when businesses come to Washington to lobby for regulations. And unfortunately, it is becoming the norm not the exception.
Lately, the call to federalize regulations has become a cottage industry for companies to come to Washington and beg for federal regulations to supersede troublesome state regulations.
Seems like every day businesses come to my office to complain about regulatory abuse and then come back later in the day to say, “Oh, and by the way, can you vote for federal regulations of my business because state regulations are killing me”.
But then a few years later, the same businesses are back now complaining that the regulatory agencies are ratcheting up the regulations.
Food distributors clamor for federal regulations on labeling. Restaurants advocated for menu standards. And now that we have federal menu standards, low and behold, we also have federal menu crimes. You can be imprisoned in America for posting the wrong calorie count on your menu!
With this bill, chemical companies lobby for federal regulations to pre-empt state regulations. None of them seem concerned that the federal regulations will pre-empt not only aggressive regulatory states but also market-oriented, friendly states.
So the “less onerous” federal regulations may initially pre-empt overly zealous regulatory states but when the federal regulations evolve into a more onerous standard there will no longer be any state laboratories left to exercise freedom.
The pro-regulation business community argues that they are being overwhelmed by costly state regulations. What can be done, short of federalizing regulations? What about charging more in states that add costly regulations?
If Vermont mandates GMO labeling, either quit selling to them or jack up the price to pay for the labeling. Do you think the socialists up there might reconsider if their Coke or Pepsi had a $2 surcharge to pay for their costly labeling?
What could chemical companies do to fight overzealous regulatory states? What they already do, move to friendly states. If California inappropriately regulates your chemicals, charge them more and by all means move! We’d love to have your business in Kentucky.
What these businesses, who favor federalization of regulations, fail to understand is that the history of federal regulations is a dismal one. Well-intended, limited regulations morph into ill-willed, expansive and intrusive regulations.
What these businesses fail to grasp is that while states like California and Vermont may pass burdensome, expensive regulations, other states like Texas and Tennessee and Kentucky are relative havens for business growth.
When businesses plead for federal regulations to supersede the ill-conceived regulations of California and Vermont, they fail to understand that once regulations are centralized, the history of regulations in Washington is only to grow.
Just witness regulations in banking and healthcare and the environment. Does anyone remember ever seeing a limited, reasonable federal standard that stayed limited and reasonable?
It is not new in Washington for businesses to lobby to be regulated.
Some hospitals advocated for Obamacare and now complain that it is bankrupting them. Some small banks advocated for Dodd Frank regulation of big banks in Dodd Frank. Now these small banks complain that the regulators are assaulting them as well.
The bill before us gives the Administrator of the EPA the power to decide at a later date how to and to what extent he or she will regulate the chemical industry. In fact, more than 100 times the bill leaves discretionary authority to the EPA to make decisions or create new rules.
Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how many pages of regulations will come from this bill? The current Code of Federal Regulations is 237 volumes and more than 178,000 pages. If Obamacare is any guide, it will be at least twenty pages of regulations for every page of legislation. Using the Obamacare standard, this bill will give us nearly 2000 more pages of regulations. Obamacare was about 1,000 pages. The regulations from Obamacare have morphed into nearly 20,000 pages so far. It is not hard to see how this bill, which requires review of the more than 85,000 chemicals now on the market, could quickly eclipse that lofty total.
No one disputes that this bill increases the power of the EPA. No one disputes that this bill transfers power from the states to the federal government.
The National Journal recognizes and describes this bill as granting extensive new authority to the EPA.
If you don’t think that’s a problem, come to Kentucky and meet the sixteen thousand people the current EPA put out of work. Ask them what they think of Hillary Clinton’s plan to continue putting coal miners out of business. Look these coal miners in the face and tell them to trust you and your bill that increases EPA power.
Is there anything in the recent history of regulatory onslaught that indicates that a reasonable federal standard will remain reasonable?
So, Mr. President, I rise today to oppose granting new power to the EPA. I wish we were here today to do the opposite to vote to restrain the EPA, to make sure they balance regulation with jobs.
I wish we here today to vote for the REINS Act that requires new regulations to be voted on by Congress before they become enforceable.
Instead this legislation will inevitably add hundreds of new regulations.
I rise today to oppose this bill because it pre-empts the Constitution’s intentions for the federal government.
I rise today to oppose this bill because the recent history of the EPA is one that has shown no balance, no quarter, and no concern for the thousands of Kentuckians they put out of business.
I rise today to oppose this bill because I can’t in good conscience as a Kentuckian vote to make the federal EPA stronger.