02.28.2014 0

The Tea Party Grows Up

Tea Party Movement

By Rick Manning

140,000 comments.  That’s how many groups and individuals weighed in on the Internal Revenue Service’s proposed regulations that would normalize the IRS’ targeting of tea party groups, and a review of a sampling of these comments reveals a startling new reality – they overwhelmingly came from conservative/limited government supporters.

As a result of this deluge, the Obama Administration is finally getting a small taste of the left’s tactic of overwhelming the bureaucracy in the regulatory process.

During the Bush Administration, labor unions and environmental groups effectively flooded agencies with comments that significantly slowed down the rule making process.  A little known part of the law, known as the Administrative Procedures Act, requires that every single comment be read and considered when promulgating a new regulation.  Due to the highly technical legal arguments involved in virtually every new regulation, this review necessitates that legally trained individuals be an integral part of the process in order to truly consider the submissions, hence the drawing out of the time frame for implementation of the regulation.

With President Obama’s pronouncement that he is urging regulators to speed up the process of finalizing rules in his final three years in office, this requirement to review and consider every comment may become the single greatest impediment to accomplishing this goal.

Imagine that!  Actual people participating in the legally laid out democratization of regulatory rulemaking have more power, en masse, than Congressmen, Senators or even the President in determining whether Obama’s entire regulatory agenda gets accomplished during his remaining term in office.

The discovery by tea party groups and others in the limited government world that they have power in numbers to slow down and impact the “I have a pen and phone and intend to use them” President’s ability to fundamentally transform America is a game changer.

In the past, Republican circles have almost solely relied upon a cadre of inside the Beltway lawyers to draft technical arguments against whatever regulations were proposed, generating hundreds of legal briefs that attorneys in the regulatory agency would read, make some changes to the rule and then move forward.

That changed at 11:59 pm on February 27, 2014.  The IRS is looking at more than 140,000 comments, because conservatives woke up to the power of commenting on abhorrent regulations that attack our basic freedoms.

To emphasize how ill-prepared the IRS is to deal with this level of citizen input, an IRS spokesperson told a caller early in the process when only 6,000 comments had been received that they did not know how they were going to handle so many comments – admitting that they were overwhelmed.  Imagine the shock and awe at IRS headquarters when around 80,000 comments flowed into the system in the last week of the comment period alone.

Now, the very Agency that holds every American accountable for any mistake made in interpreting the arcane tax code has to make a simple determination – are they going to follow the law, or are they going to step on the gas and get the regulation done fast the way the President is demanding?

It is up to Congress to demand that this rogue Agency follow the law to the letter in promulgating the regulation, even as it has been revealed that they failed to follow it in the process of drafting it.

Beyond the IRS regulation, a whole new world has been opened up through this process for “we, the people” to fight against Obama’s dramatic, extra-Constitutional expansion of the federal government.  No one comment is the silver bullet, but when they come in the tens of thousands, it stops the process in its tracks.

Now that this one simple trick to stop Obama’s regulatory agenda is out in the open, shame on us if we don’t use it every day to stop his wholesale regulatory assault on freedom.

All Congress needs to do is shine a light on the regulations early in the process to allow time to comment, and demand that career employees in the various Agencies follow the law.  As we draw closer to the end of Obama’s reign, the nature of a career employee is to begin transitioning in their minds to the next Administration, even as the current one desperately seeks to close out loose ends.

Isn’t it fitting that on the fifth anniversary of the founding of the tea party, the key to slowing down Obama’s regulatory state was uncovered, and that key is massive citizen involvement in government.

140,000 comments, and a whole new way to fight big government.  It seems the tea party has grown up, and not a second too soon.

The author is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government

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