By Natalia Castro
Congressional Republicans have made use of a 20-year old tool for success to employ this year to combat the regulatory state the Obama Administration created; the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996. In its history, the CRA ha only successfully overturned one executive branch regulation, but the Republican-led congress has already used it to overturn two of Obama’s regulations, and it is ready for more.
The CRA provides Congress with oversight over regulations issued by federal agencies and the ability to overturn them provided a joint resolution of disapproval is passed within the first 60 legislative days after a regulation is finalized. Then, the overreaching regulations are effectively erased from the law, and would require a vote of Congress to re-enact them.
With no possibility for filibuster with CRA action in the Senate, Republicans simply need a simple majority to terminate those regulations passed in the waning days of the Obama administration for good.
The House has already passed five CRA bills to nullify regulations including those related to the environment and other issues. Two, eliminating the Department of Interior so-called Stream Protection Rule and another, blocking the Disclosure of Payments by Resource Extraction Issuers regulation, have already been passed by the Senate and go to President Donald Trump to sign.
An Associated Press report from Feb. 2017 explain, the Stream Protection rule blocks 6,000 miles of streams and 52,000 acres of forests from being mined near by coal miners, citing debris being entering nearby waters. However, Republicans and even some Democrats found the rule would eliminate thousands of coal related jobs and ignore dozens of federal, state, and local regulations on the industry already in place; effectively destroying the coal industry in key coal producing states such as Kentucky.
The regulation was disapproved by the House in a 228 to 194 vote. In the Senate, it was also disapproved on a 54 to 45 decision.
Democrats cannot even be bothered by the Republicans’ reversal of Obama regulations. In reference to the CRA, which as passed under the Clinton presidency, even former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) once said, “[t]his legislation will help to redress the balance [between the branches], reclaiming for Congress some of its policymaking authority,” echoing the bipartisan agreement for congressional oversight.
Other CRA bills are still awaiting Senate action. The first, H.J. Res.40, removes additional background checks on Social Security recipients for gun ownership. NPR of Feb. 2017 estimated this regulation would prevent about 75,000 people found mentally incapable of managing their own finances from purchasing gun. Republicans have vigorously fought this regulation as a violation to the Second Amendment without proper due process, since Americans would be losing their rights without having ever committed a crime.
With Republican control over Congress and the Presidency, the remaining regulations in these regulations are expected to be repealed as well.
The CRA was established to provide congressional oversight over the executive branch and the agencies of the administration. Now that President Obama is gone and Republicans are in control, more and more regulations crippling the economy will be effectively removed using these tools of Congress. The CRA might have remained dormant for its first two decades of existence, but thanks to Obama’s overreach, it is finally being wielded in this Congressional term.
Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.