Taking a fresh look at deregulation and at “decoupling” the U.S. from China economically will be key for renewed job growth after the COVID-19 crisis ends, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday.
“I fully expect over the next coming weeks and months and years, we are going to have an extended debate on how to decouple our economies and how to ensure that critical infrastructure is here in the United States,” Cruz said in a webinar sponsored by The Heritage Foundation.
“That means more pharmaceutical production,” he continuted, “ … We may be looking at tax and regulatory policy to try to make it easier for critical infrastructure to actually survive in the United States and withstand China’s assault.”
While the focus of the discussion was on economic recovery, Cruz said the “most important and far-reaching foreign policy consequences of this pandemic is going to be a fundamental reassessment of the United States’ relationship with China.”
The communist government of China initially lied about the origins of the coronavirus, covered them up, and punished whistleblowers, Cruz said.
He added that the crisis demonstrated how much the U.S. relies on the supply chain from China for pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment.
The communist government “very systematically and very deliberately” targeted pharmaceuticals from more of a national security standpoint than an economic one, the Texas senator said.
He noted the Chinese even threatened to cut off pharmaceuticals to the United States as a form of economic warfare.
“If they were to do that, that’s not just economic warfare. That’s actually real warfare,” Cruz said, adding:
That’s cutting off needed medicines and literally threatening the lives of millions of Americans. Personally, I think it is foolish to allow ourselves to be so dependent on China for our supply chain that the lives of Americans hang in the balance at the whims of the communist government of China.
During the coronavirus pandemic, some 400 regulations at the federal, state, and local levels were relaxed to respond to the crisis.
Those included dropping rules to streamline testing for COVID-19, allowing state reciprocity for medical licenses, relaxing health privacy requirements to allow for telemedicine, permitting non-hospital sites to be used for patient care, and waiving some restrictions for alcoholic beverage companies to produce hand sanitizer.
“I think we ought to look at the rules and regulations that have been suspended during the crisis,” Lee said during the webinar. “ … We should ask ourselves, why it is that many of these regulations were put in place in the first place if they are appropriate to be dropped in a real emergency?”
The Utah senator added, “If we can see this crisis as an opportunity for systematic regulatory reform, then our economy can and will come back stronger than ever.”
Telemedicine has made a breakthrough as many people have been homebound.
“With regard to medicine, there is no reason why someone practicing in Massachusetts or New York shouldn’t be able to treat someone in Wyoming or Montana,” Lee said, adding:
In fact, one of the big divides that now exists in this country could be taken down, not just economically, but also geographically.
People in some parts of the country don’t always have access to as many doctors or as many specialists in an area that they might really need.
I think this is an idea whose time has come and has probably been here for a few years, and we just haven’t noticed it.
Lee said that if there were a pending bill in Congress he could pass with the wave of his hand, it would be the REINS Act. “REINS” is congressional shorthand for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny.
Under the proposal, anytime a federal regulation has compliance cost to the economy of more than $100 million, Congress would have to pass it and the president would have to sign it into law.
Lee said the bill is not only good for the economy, but restores the intent of the constitutional separation of powers.
“Over the last few decades, Congress has become increasingly reliant on not passing laws, but passing platitudes” that defer details to interpretation by federal agencies, Lee said.
“The problem with these laws is not only that they are put in place through a constitutionally suspect mechanism, but they are also suspect as a matter of policy and public acceptability,” the Utah lawmaker said, adding:
The federal bureaucrats who write these laws are well-educated, well-intentioned, hardworking, and highly specialized. But they don’t work for you.
You can fire your congressman every two years. You can fire your senators every six years. You cannot fire a bureaucrat.
They don’t stand for election. They are not really accountable to anyone who does in turn stand for election.
In the context of state regulations, Cruz mentioned that he has spoken to SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk about relocating his businesses from California to Texas.
“Elon is hardly a right-wing, conservative activist, but he has publicly expressed his displeasure with the headquarters of Tesla in California,” Cruz said, adding:
They shut down their factory there, and he has expressed his displeasure with wanting to open up his factory.
He has publicly expressed an interest, if California keeps doing this, ‘We may just have to move our Tesla headquarters out of California and into Texas.’
I called Elon and said, ‘If you want to come to Texas, we would love to have you. Texas is very simple. We love jobs. Anyone that is coming and creating jobs, we would love to have you.’