House ‘Freedom Caucus’ Asks Trump To Undo 232 Rules On Net Neutrality, Tobacco, Nursing Homes & Ceiling Fans

What’s on your wish list this holiday season? For the few dozen members of the House of Representatives Freedom Caucus, the hope to see President-elect Donald Trump undo or revise more than 200 federal rules involving everything from tobacco to food labels to ceiling fans to your constitutional right to bring a lawsuit against your credit card company.

The list was released this week by Rep. Mark Meadows (NC), who chairs the conservative Freedom Caucus, a group of federal lawmakers formed in 2015 that openly advocates for limited government.

Repealing or revising some rules — certainly those that are at least a year old — will require either entirely new rules, or legislative action. As we’ve mentioned in previous stories, newer regulations — those finalized in the final few months of the Obama administration — can be rolled back via the Congressional Review Act.

That 1996 law — only used once successfully since its creation — allows Congress to review and issue a joint memorandum of disapproval on rules they wish to undo. The President must sign that memorandum (or Congress must override a veto) for the rule to be rolled back.

Among the rules and regulations included in the 23-page list [PDF]:

• Protecting The Corporate “Get Out of Jail Free” Card:
As we’ve written previously, a growing array of companies covering virtually everything you buy now use forced arbitration clauses to prevent you from bringing a lawsuit through the legal system. Furthermore, these clauses generally block you from joining with other wronged customers in a class action. The Freedom Caucus is apparently fine with this, and is asking Trump to make sure that two regulations — one of which is still pending — are rolled back.

First, the caucus is calling for the repeal of the massive Sept. 2016 revamp of nursing home rules for facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid. Included in those rules is a prohibition against the use of forced arbitration in new residents’ contracts.

On the eve of the election, a federal court granted the nursing home industry’s request for an injunction preventing this rule from going into effect, but an official rollback would more firmly establish lawmakers’ position that wronged consumers have no place in the courtroom.

The other arbitration regulation targeted by the Freedom Caucus is one that hasn’t even been finalized yet.

In May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released its proposed draft of rules that, if enacted, would limit the use of arbitration clauses in certain financial products. However, those rules are still pending and may never see the light of day.

• Gutting The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
The CFPB, created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reforms, has long been a target for bank-backed lawmakers. Its future is now in doubt, after a federal appeals court ruling that the Bureau’s leadership structure is unconstitutional, meaning that Trump would be able to remove CFPB Director Richard Cordray years before his current term expires.

Just in case the Bureau does survive, the Freedom Caucus is asking for an amendment to the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to “require that no deference be given to the interpretation of consumer financial law by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.”

• No more Net Neutrality: The Freedom Caucus wants to do away with this 2015 FCC rule, which prohibits internet service providers from actively blocking, favoring, or slowing down access to any particular online content.

Like many items on the Caucus’s list, the group does not put a price tag on the expected cost or savings of the rule it seeks to undo. However, while most of these items simply state “Cost not available,” the line item for Net Neutrality waxes philosophical, declaring, “All regulations carry costs, which are inevitably passed on to consumers in one form or another.”

Additionally, the caucus’s main problem with the rule is its length: “At 400 pages and over 2,500 citations, the network neutrality regulations packs in a lot.”

• Easing Off On Big Tobacco:
After a couple decades of being slightly tough on the tobacco industry, the Freedom Caucus wants cigarettes and other tobacco products removed from under the regulatory thumb of the Food and Drug Administration.

“The worst fear of cigar manufacturers and smokers alike has been that the FDA will impose the same onerous pre-market review requirements on cigars that it currently places on cigarettes,” writes the caucus.

Really — the worst fear for a smoker is whether or not the FDA has to approve a new tobacco product before it hits the market?

The caucus also seeks to prevent the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development from banning smoking inside of all public housing.

• No Expanded Overtime:
Even though the Department of Labor’s rule that would have expanded overtime eligibility to millions of additional American workers is already being held up by an injunction — and even though Trump’s pick for Secretary of Labor will likely drop all legal challenges to that injunction — the Freedom Caucus still wants that rule out of here.

• No New Food Labels:
In May, the FDA finalized its revision of nutrition labels on packaged foods to be easier to read, reflect the latest information on nutrients, serving sizes, and recommended daily values. Somehow, the Freedom Caucus — without explanation of any kind — puts a price tag of between $200 million to $800 million on this change. It’s not clear if that’s an annual cost, amortized costs over several years, cost to taxpayers, cost to industry, or just a number someone made up. Interestingly, unlike many other items on the Caucus list where costs in the millions are given in “millions,” this item is described using “billions,” i.e. “$.8 billion.”

There are many other food-related regulations targeted by the caucus, involving everything from labeling to school lunch nutrition standards. We can’t even begin to touch on them all here.

• Won’t Anyone Think About The Fan Industry?
New Department of Energy standards for ceiling fan light kits are apparently too “burdensome, costly, and implausible to comply with.” The same language is used to describe energy-saving standards for soda machines.

In fact, there are two separate items involving ceiling fans that the caucus believes are so important that they must be dealt with during Trump’s first 100 days.

“The conservation rules are a part of the green agenda being pushed by the left,” contends the caucus, which says the extra costs harm real estate developers.

• We Want Our Triclosan:
Protecting hand soap is also big on the caucus’s agenda. In September, the FDA concluded that there is “no scientific evidence” showing that antibacterial hand soaps containing antimicrobial chemicals like triclosan are “any better than plain soap and water.”

A number of companies have already stopped using these controversial ingredients, and Walmart asked its vendors to end the use of triclosan and other chemicals this past July.

But the Freedom Caucus somehow ascribes — without any explanation — a cost of up to $402.8 million on this regulation, and repeatedly (we caught it at least twice on the list) calls for its end.

Now we wait and see whether President-elect Trump and his cabinet also feel this strongly about soap regulation.

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