Red tape: When will Washington get serious?

Like the weather, everybody talks about onerous government red tape, but nobody does anything about it.

Or do they?

On Thursday, House Republicans pushed through a measure taking aim at federal regulations, arguing that unelected bureaucrats impose too many burdens on the nation's businesses, thus hindering economic recovery.

The legislation would freeze many new regulations across the board until the unemployment rate - now at 8.2 percent - falls below 6 percent.

The bill dovetails with another proposal approved by the House last December that gives Congress more authority to approve or reject major regulations issued by executive branch agencies.

These are both excellent proposals. But will Democratic Senate leaders allow votes in the upper chamber? If not, they should explain themselves to the nation's struggling small business owners.

The Obama administration has threatened a veto, arguing that the bill "would undermine critical public health and safety protections," according to The Associated Press. But, in fact, the legislation would allow the White House to seek congressional approval for a waiver to impose any rule affected by the law.

The president maintains he's in favor of cutting red tape, but so far he has offered only a disappointing mish-mash of timid proposals while imposing major new regulations - greatly expanding the domain of the Environmental Protection Agency, for example - that inflict billions in costs on the private economy.

Consider: White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein announced with great fanfare last year that the administration's plan for regulatory relief will save business $10 billion over five years. Fine. Every little bit helps. But "the most recent analysis by the Small Business Administration estimated the cost of compliance with federal regulation at a staggering $1.75 trillion annually," noted Henry I. Miller in a February Investor's Business Daily commentary.

Meanwhile, a previous regulatory official tells Mr. Miller that over Mr. Obama's first two years "the federal government issued 132 economically significant regulations [defined as having impacts of $100 million or more per year]. That averages out to 66 major regulations per year, which is dramatically higher than the averages issued by President Clinton [47 per year] or President Bush [48 per year]."

This flies in the face of Mr. Obama's stated intentions.

By automatically dismissing the GOP's serious attempts at regulatory reform, the White House and congressional Democrats prove the adage. They like to talk about providing relief, but don't want to actually do anything about it.