WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 1, 2017
I rise today in support of this resolution because it will reverse an unlawful power grab and restore responsible worker health and safety policies.
Article one of the Constitution is clear. It is the members of this body — the legislative branch — who write the law. Why? Because we are closest to the people, and therefore more responsive to the needs and demands of those we serve.
It’s the responsibility of the executive branch to enforce the laws — not write them. Unfortunately, the previous administration failed to abide by this founding principle. President Obama boasted about his days teaching constitutional law, yet his administration tried time and again to unilaterally rewrite the law through executive fiat.
The “Volks” rule is just one example of this unprecedented overreach. Under Occupational Safety and Health Act regulations, employers are required to record injuries and illnesses and retain those records for five years. This information has long been used by safety inspectors and employers to identify gaps in safety and enhance protections for workers.
To ensure hazards are addressed in a timely manner, the law explicitly provides a six-month window under which an employer can be cited for failing to keep proper records. Six months. But never one to let the law stand in the way of its partisan agenda, the Obama administration decided to unfairly target a Louisiana construction company for recordkeeping errors from nearly five years earlier.
That’s right — five years. Not even remotely close to what the law passed by Congress permits. The consequences of this unlawful power grab were predictable. Employers large and small faced significant regulatory confusion and legal uncertainty.
Fortunately, a federal appeals court unanimously struck down this power grab. Even President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court —Judge Merrick Garland — referred to OSHA’s action as “unreasonable.”
And how did the Obama administration respond to this judicial rebuke? It completely ignored the court’s ruling. The agency doubled down on its abuse of power and tried to rewrite the law, extending the threat of penalty from six months to five years.
Again, it is Congress that writes laws — not government agencies. That is precisely why we must support this resolution. By supporting H. J. Res 83, we will provide more certainty for small businesses and uphold the rule of law.
Just as importantly, we must demand a better approach to worker health and safety. To be clear, this rule does nothing — I repeat nothing — to improve the health and safety of America’s workers.
Instead of shaming employers, OSHA should collaborate with employers and develop a proactive approach that will keep workers safe. That’s exactly what Republicans have demanded for years, and we will continue to demand so in the years ahead-- No matter which party has the presidency.
I urge my colleagues to block an unlawful rule by voting in favor of H. J. Res 83. I wish to thank the Chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, Representative Byrne, for his leadership on this important issue. Thank you, and I yield the balance of my time.
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