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Senators Launch Effort to 'Cut Red Tape'

Lankford (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

"People don't get up every morning and read the Federal Register."  

That, Sen. James Lankford said Thursday morning, is the crux of the reason why the Oklahoma Republican is joining Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to launch a new initiative at their Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee that's responsible for regulatory policy called #CutRedTape, through which they want ordinary Americans — like those without lobbyists — to share concerns about federal regulations.  

"I think so much of what we have right now with America being concerned about their government is that their government doesn't seem to listen to them, and what we really want to do is create a venue and an avenue for government to listen to Main Street," Heitkamp said at a joint news conference Thursday morning.  

Lankford and Heitkamp said that in addition to a public website and references on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee page, there would be a way for individual senators to feature a box for people to submit regulations that they have trouble with to the subcommittee.  

The types of issues the senators will seek to address really fall into two piles, Lankford explained. Some might be able to be addressed through outreach to federal departments and agencies, while others might actually lead to congressional action in conjunction with relevant authorizing committees.  

"There's a couple questions. One is, is this someone that just doesn't like any regulation at all? We will have regulations. That's the extension of law. If we pass law, we have to have the regulations to go around it, so it may be a reasonable thing," Lankford said. "Or it could be this is a problem. If it's a problem, there's really two solutions: one is, does the agency have enough authority right now to solve this on their own, or do we have to pass a piece of legislation? Those two buckets will be the important thing to us."  

Lankford said that he expected a lot of outreach by the subcommittee staff with the executive branch.  

"Federal regulations make sure the food we eat is safe, protect small businesses from fraud, and help keep our economy running," Heitkamp added in a statement accompanying the announcement. "But the federal government is big, and there are good programs that can get caught up in unnecessary red tape. In North Dakota, I have heard about farmers and small businesses who are frustrated with well meaning, yet confusing, regulations that make it harder for them to succeed."  

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