The House passed (245-172) The Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act, which would block all pending federal rules that impose annual economic costs of $50 million or more. The Act is a combination of seven bills, all of which fit the goal of reducing what Republicans say are hurdles to economic growth imposed by excessive federal regulations.

The Act would end “major” federal regulations until the unemployment rate reaches 6 percent or below. The US unemployment rate currently is at 8.2 percent and has not been below 6 percent since July 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Congressional Budget Office projected earlier this year that the unemployment rate probably would remain above 6 percent until late 2016. That would delay implementation of the 2010 health-care overhaul and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulatory law because implementation of those laws depends on regulations that, for the most part, have not been promulgated or finalized.

The legislation incorporates a regulatory freeze bill (H.R. 4078) and other proposals that would bar President Obama and future presidents from issuing regulations in the final months of their presidencies. The package also targets “sue and settle” practices employed by environmental groups to strengthen environmental rules through court settlements. These groups use lawsuits to force the EPA and other federal agencies to expedite rules or make existing ones more stringent. EPA has been accused of actually encouraging such suits to achieve desired actions while avoiding political hurdles.

The White House has threatened a veto but the bill probably will never be considered by the Senate.

During the floor debate, the House rejected numerous amendments proposed by Democratic members designed to exempt public health and environmental rules. The House approved a number of amendments proposed by Republicans, including an amendment by Rep. McKinley (R-W.V.) to modify the threshold for determining whether a rule is significant enough to be stopped. As originally drafted, the legislation would halt any rules that impose annual economic costs of $100 million or more. Rep. McKinley’s amendment lowers the threshold to $50 million.

The Administration estimates the regulatory moratorium would affect about 140 rules in agencies, including the EPA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Securities and Exchange Commission. The measure also would apply to any regulation determined by the Office of Management and Budget to have a “materially negative effect on jobs, public health and safety, local and state governments, or the environment.” The only areas of government exempted are the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Open Market Committee and the US Postal Service.

H.R. 4078 is at http://rules.house.gov/Media/file/PDF_112_2/LegislativeText/CPRT-112-HPRT-RU00-HR4078.pdf.