Senator Heitkamp’s Words Don’t Match Her Voting Record When It Comes to Regulatory Reform


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp holds a town hall Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in in Fargo, N.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s ability to keep her seat in the U.S. Senate this election cycle rest squarely on her ability to convince North Dakotans that she’s not like other Democrats in key policy areas. Case in point, government regulation.

That’s why Heitkamp has been busy patting herself on the back for an initiative she’s started (along with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio) to reform the federal rule making process.

“This isn’t new,” she told The Hill of the policy push. “This is a culmination of work that I started when I got here. To say, ‘Oh, now she’s just jumping because Trump’s president,’ that doesn’t explain the last four years of work.”

In other words, Heitkamp wants us to believe that this is an organic policy position for her and not posturing ahead of what could be an arduous re-election bid. But is it really?

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…Heitkamp is making a big show out of being a regulatory reformer while quietly voting against such reforms while outside of the spotlight.[/mks_pullquote]

One might point to the fact that Heitkamp was the deciding vote for her party to defeat an effort to repeal, under the Congressional Review Act, an Obama-era emissions rule that the State of North Dakota has filed suit against because it’s duplicative and would harm the state’s economy. Heitkamp has been defending her vote saying it won’t cost jobs in our state.

Governor Doug Burgum doesn’t agree.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has filed suit on behalf of the state over the rule.

Congress Kevin Cramer called the rule a “poke in the eye” of North Dakota.

Senator John Hoeven says the rule “costs us jobs and economic growth.”

Even Heitkamp herself, in a rather duplicitous move, fired off a letter to the BLM after her vote arguing that the rule “created some areas of duplication.”

It’s hard to argue that you’re for federal regulatory reform when you’re using your vote to defend regulation you yourself argue is flawed.

But it’s not just that CRA vote on the BLM rule which makes Heitkamp’s posturing on regulatory reform seem hypocritical. Earlier this week in the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Heitkamp cast votes with her fellow Democrats against three bills aimed at regulatory reform.

Here’s what Heitkamp is against:

  • H.R.21 – Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 – This would allow Congress to “consider a joint resolution to disapprove multiple regulations that federal agencies have submitted for congressional review within the last 60 legislative days of a session of Congress during the final year of a President’s term.” Basically, if a future President does what Obama did at the end of his/her term and tries to ram through a bunch of last minute regulations Congress can vote on a resolution to block all of them together instead of doing it one at a time.

  • H.R.26 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 – You may have heard of this one before by its acronym, the REINS Act. It would require that all major new regulations coming from the executive branch be approved by Congress. The idea is that Congress, not the executive branch, ought to be making the law.

  • S.584 – Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act – This one is a little more complicated. You can read a fully summary at the link, but in a nutshell it aims to make regulations more flexible and to require regular reviews of regulations to ensure they’re still needed. It also allows for proposed regulations to be challenged in court from the point they’re proposed rather than waiting for them to take effect.

To be fair, just because Heitkamp is generally for regulatory reform, she doesn’t have to be in favor of every piece of legislation which brands itself that way.

But it sure seems, to this observer, that Heitkamp is making a big show out of being a regulatory reformer while quietly voting against such reforms while outside of the spotlight. These proposed policies seem like sound policy changes to me.

Heitkamp should explain why they don’t match with her regulatory reform platform. I’d ask, but her office doesn’t bother to respond to my questions.