BushGreenwatch  [Printer-friendly version]
June 23, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Republicans in Congress are preparing to ram
through legislation creating a "Sunset Commission" with its
membership stacked with anti-regulatory types, and with a mandate to
get rid of any and all government agencies and programs. You can get
involved here.]

Apparently rushing to lock in a long-sought goal before the fall
elections, GOP congressional leaders may bring to a vote within weeks
a proposal that could literally wipe out any federal program that
protects public health or the environment--or for that matter civil
rights, poverty programs, auto safety, education, affordable housing,
Head Start, workplace safety or any other activity targeted by anti-
regulatory forces.

With strong support from the Bush White House and the Republican Study
Committee, the proposal would create a "sunset commission"--an
unelected body with the power to recommend whether a program lives or
dies, and then move its recommendations through Congress on a fast-
track basis with limited debate and no amendments.

Three leading proposals have been introduced and are being winnowed
into a final version. They would give the White House some -- or total
-- authority to nominate members to the commission. House Majority
Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has confirmed that his office is
coordinating development of a final version for prompt floor action.

Sunset commissions have been proposed, and defeated, before. But
public interest veterans say the current situation is unlike any in
the past, because the House Republican Study Committee, which includes
some of the most anti-regulatory members of Congress, has secured
guaranteed floor consideration of a sunset bill.

If such a bill should become law, the sunset commission could be
packed with industry lobbyists and representatives from industry-
funded think tanks, and could conduct its business in secrecy. Two of
the sunset proposals under consideration would mandate that programs
die after they are reviewed, unless Congress takes action to save

Several environmental programs have been targeted during past sunset
attempts. Experts predict those would be among the first a sunset
commission would review. Among them: the Energy Star Program; federal
support for mass transit; the State Energy Program, which supports
numerous state and local energy renewable efficiency programs; the
Clean School Bus Program; the Land and Water Conservation Fund;
federal grants for Wastewater infrastructure; a national children's
health study that examines factors leading to such problems as
premature birth, autism, obesity, asthma, and exposures to pesticides,
mercury and other toxic chemicals.

A coalition of public interest groups is fighting to block enactment
of a sunset commission. Information is available through the Sunset
Commission Action Center at OMB Watch.