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Perspective: Concerns about "super' agencies

Perspective: Concerns about "super' agencies

April 5th, 2014 by U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemekyer, R-Mo. in News

While it is true that government agencies can create rules to enact laws passed by Congress, there is a new and disturbing trend that tests that notion and threatens the constitutional framework of checks and balances deliberately established by our founding fathers. When the Democrats held the majority in the House and Senate they worked with President Obama to create at least two "super" agencies over which Congress has little to no oversight or authority.

The first of these "super" agencies was created under the president's health care law and is known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This 15-member board of unelected bureaucrats is supposedly tasked with proposing ways to reduce the growth of Medicare spending, but it does more than just make recommendations.

Under the president's health care law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is directed to implement the board's proposals automatically unless Congress affirmatively acts to either alter the board's proposals or suspend them.

Now, think about that for a moment. In essence, IPAB has the power to reduce what Medicare will pay doctors, hospitals and other health care providers, and its recommendations will have the force of law unless Congress enacts a law to stop them, which as you know is no easy feat these days. According to the law that established IPAB, its decisions on and the implementation of rules and regulations are not even subject to judicial review.

Clearly, this is an unprecedented power that has the potential to dramatically impact the availability of care for the nation's seniors. That's why I am a cosponsor of the Protecting Seniors Access to Medicare Act which would repeal IPAB. The existence of IPAB has stripped your elected representatives in Congress of much of their authority to oversee Medicare and this bill would help reverse that.

The second "super" agency in question is the deceptively named Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that the president created to regulate financial transactions of all types under the guise of protecting consumers. I have had several run-ins with this group as a member of the Financial Services Committee, and it has become clear to me and many of my colleagues that this group has both unprecedented authority and virtually no accountability.

Among other powers, the CFPB has the authority to prevent "abusive" financial products but rather than defining that term in advance so that consumers and lenders have some idea of what the law means, the CFPB intends to define and enforce the law based on what they determine to be the facts and circumstances of a particular case. What we are starting to see is that the "protections" offered by the CFPB do little more than drive up costs to consumers and limit consumer choice.

Perhaps most alarming is that the seemingly vast power of the CFPB rests in the hands of one individual who has the authority to simply withdraw nearly limitless funds from the Federal Reserve to support its operations without going through Congress or the White House for that matter. Unlike other financial regulators, there is no board or commission to strike a balance at the CFPB, and recent complaints from staff show an alarming trend of reported discrimination and retaliation on the part of CFPB leadership.

The House has been proactive in making reforms to the CFPB. Earlier this year, the House passed the Consumer Financial Protection and Soundness Improvement Act. The main priority of this bill is to reign in the CFPB and make commonsense reforms to make the agency more accountable and more transparent.

Our Republic was founded on the principals of law and the notion that a series of checks and balances within government would prevent any one branch or individual from becoming too powerful. Clearly, those tenants of American government are under attack and, because I serve as the voice of the people where the power of our government must reside, I will continue to monitor the activities of these "super" agencies and do everything in my power to ensure they are held accountable to you, the people they are supposed to serve.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 573-635-7232.

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