Chairman Williams Slams Department of Labor for Stonewalling Congressional Oversight Efforts
Washington, November 3, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Roger Williams (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, wrote to Acting Secretary of Labor, Julie Su, and Assistant Secretary of Labor, Christopher Williamson, to address the Department’s policy of not discussing proposed rules with Congress. Chairman Williams issued the following quote:
“Unfortunately, the Department of Labor has instituted a policy of not discussing its proposed rules with Congress,” said Chairman Williams. “This action is limiting our ability to conduct legitimate oversight to ensure the agency is following the laws on the books that ensure small business interests are taken into account during the rulemaking process. It is my hope that the DOL reverses this policy to increase trust and transparency in government agencies.”
Read the full letter here.
Read excerpts from the letter below:
“The House Committee on Small Business (the Committee) writes regarding the Department of Labor’s (DOL) policy to not discuss its proposed rules with Congress. As part of the Committee’s investigation into how agencies comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA), the Committee sent the DOL and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MHSA) letters seeking a deeper explanation of two recently proposed rules’ impact on small businesses. In response, the DOL and the MHSA indicated they will not discuss proposed rules with Congress. The Committee vehemently disagrees with the DOL’s policy and seeks a deeper explanation of how the DOL complies with Congressional requests for information.
In response to letters from the Committee, the DOL and the MHSA indicated it was against their policy to comply with Congressional requests for information on its proposed rules. In a follow up conversation between Committee and DOL staff, DOL staff indicated that this was an internal practice and they did not believe an actual written policy existed. The DOL also indicated in their response that they would submit the Committee’s letter as a comment on its rule, and may address the Committee’s concerns in the preface to its final rule. Leaving a comment on this proposed rule was not the Committee’s intent when sending our communications, and our questions were not rhetorical comments for the record; the Committee is well aware of the process it should go through to submit comments on rules. The Committee disagrees with the DOL’s conclusion that communications regarding this rule constitute comments for the record, and the DOL’s belief that a nonspecific response included in the preamble to its final rule is a sufficient response to this Committee.
“Pursuant to House Rule X, this Committee has a duty to the House of Representatives and the American people to legislate and conduct oversight on “the problems of all small business.” The Committee cannot conduct oversight if the DOL continues to withhold requested information. Similarly, the Committee cannot draft adequately informed legislation without the DOL’s input on substantive questions. As a general rule, ex parte communications between federal agencies and Congress are encouraged for Notice-and-Comment rulemakings such these. Courts have found that better legislation and rules are created when agencies and Congress work together to create rules which implement legislation correctly. This is valuable since agencies are tasked with implementing laws and have subject matter expertise in the relevant field, while Congress is responsible for passing the laws, thus having a better understanding of its intent and purpose.”
Signatories include Chairman Roger Williams (R-TX).