In December the House also passed the Innovation Act, a patent-litigation reform that contains a “loser pays” provision (a precedent that terrifies the trial bar). By February, it had passed Georgia Rep. Doug Collins’s Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, which prevents federal regulators from signing secret deals with friendly outside lawyers—a practice known as “sue and settle.”
Majority Leader Harry Reid has kept House legal reforms at bay. President Obama in his early days relied on the Senate to pass lawyer payoffs like the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which purported to guarantee women equal pay. The Senate later rubber-stamped department and agency nominees who would lay the regulatory groundwork for litigation: dreaming up disparate-impact theories (for housing and lending lawsuits); rejiggering minimum-wage definitions (for employment lawsuits). Senate Democrats also use committee hearings to soften up litigation targets on behalf of their trial-lawyer pals. (See: Toyota.)
This all ends with a Republican Senate. The GOP, already bitter over Mr. Reid’s theft of their filibuster rights, won’t be quick to approve lawsuit-happy nominees for executive posts. Mr. Grassley is a long-standing advocate for transparency and legal fairness and is the Senate sponsor of Mr. Collins’s Sunshine Act. To the extent his Judiciary Committee holds hearings, they’ll be focused on asbestos fraud, the sue-and-settle ruse, and the need for more tort reform.