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Top House Republican wants ban on new federal regulations

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Congressional Producer
  • Boehner says a moratorium would give the private sector "breathing room"
  • The ban on new federal regulations could last a year, he suggests
  • He spoke after a meeting with representatives of various business sectors
  • Democratic official says it would lead to an "agenda written for lobbyists by lobbyists"

Washington (CNN) -- House GOP Leader John Boehner said he supports a ban on all new federal regulations, after meeting Friday with business lobbyists who complained about uncertain economic conditions.

"I think having a moratorium on new federal regulations is a great idea. It sends a wonderful signal to the private sector they may have some breathing room," Boehner said.

He said any ban would include an exemption for "emergency regulations" for some agencies and suggested it could last a year.

A House Republican leadership aide noted that Boehner and House GOP Whip Eric Cantor, in a proposal to President Barack Obama last year, suggested a similar halt to any new regulations that could cause new costs to small businesses.

Boehner and Illinois Republicans Peter Roskam and Aaron Schock convened a group of nearly 20 Washington-based business leaders who represent various sectors -- such as home builders, retailers and manufacturers -- as part of their "America Speaking Out" initiative to gather ideas for the GOP legislative agenda.

Roskam said those in the meeting reported that a significant obstacle to the economic recovery is "the down-talking of the private sector, the rhetoric."

"The anti-business rhetoric that they see coming out of Washington is more than just symbolic." Roskam added. "It's creating a great deal of uncertainty."

The people in the meeting, many of whom have contributed to GOP candidates, repeatedly criticized the Obama administration's and congressional Democratic leaders' approach to the economy, criticizing excessive federal spending and burdensome government regulations.

Bruce Josten from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said businesses have "reached a tipping point" and noted his group believes the thousands of new regulations included in health care reform, the Wall Street overhaul and a pending climate change bill could take about 12 years to go into effect.

Jay Timmons from the National Association of Manufacturers maintained the United States is "becoming one of the most risky places in the world in which to do business." But Timmons did make a pitch for both parties to come together, saying, "It takes a bipartisan effort to get this economy moving again."

Ryan Rudominer, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, seized on the GOP meeting Friday to argue it would result in "a Republican agenda written for lobbyists by lobbyists."

Repeating the theme that Democrats have stepped up this week about a return to Bush policies under a GOP-controlled Congress, Rudominer added, "Only if you think the financial crisis is an 'ant,' would you think it a good thing for the country, as House Republicans do, to put forward the George Bush agenda on steroids, where Wall Street reform would be repealed, jobs would be outsourced overseas, and the Bush tax cuts would be extended for the super rich without being paid for."

The meeting with business groups was originally scheduled to take place in Boehner's office in the Capitol, but after the Democratic National Committee launched attacks about a closed-door meeting with lobbyists, organizers moved it to a conference room in the Capitol Visitors Center.

Republicans did not allow media coverage of the meeting itself, but instead arranged for their own camera to stream the meeting live on the America Speaking Out website. The Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit watchdog group, also streamed the meeting live on its website.

Boehner's call to stop new government regulations comes a day after he called for the repeal of the financial reform bill just hours before it was approved by the Senate. The president is expected to sign the bill next week.