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Republicans Are Excited About This Idea Being Floated by Legal Experts

by Charlie Hoffmann • Washington Free Beacon

A Friday opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal has conservatives on Capitol Hill intrigued about the possibility of being able to roll back a plethora of regulations introduced during the Obama administration.

Kimberley Strassel’s column, “A GOP Regulatory Game Changer,” argues that the Congressional Review Act of 1996, or CRA, would grant congressional Republicans the ability to repeal onerous regulations passed by the Obama administration.

The accepted wisdom in Washington is that the CRA can be used only against new regulations, those finalized in the past 60 legislative days. That gets Republicans back to June, teeing up 180 rules or so for override. Included are biggies like the Interior Department’s “streams” rule, the Labor Department’s overtime-pay rule, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s methane rule.

The column focuses on the legal arguments of Todd Gaziano, who served as counsel to former Republican Rep. David McIntosh, who authored the 1996 bill.

But what Mr. Gaziano told Republicans on Wednesday was that the CRA grants them far greater powers, including the extraordinary ability to overrule regulations even back to the start of the Obama administration. The CRA also would allow the GOP to dismantle these regulations quickly, and to ensure those rules can’t come back, even under a future Democratic president. No kidding.

The column has Republicans “going wild over” the possibility of pursuing Gaziano’s strategy to undo the actions of the Obama administration, Axios reported.

Strassel’s column concisely lays out how Republicans could implement this strategy.

Here’s how it works: It turns out that the first line of the CRA requires any federal agency promulgating a rule to submit a “report” on it to the House and Senate. The 60-day clock starts either when the rule is published or when Congress receives the report—whichever comes later.

“There was always intended to be consequences if agencies didn’t deliver these reports,” Mr. Gaziano tells me. “And while some Obama agencies may have been better at sending reports, others, through incompetence or spite, likely didn’t.” Bottom line: There are rules for which there are no reports. And if the Trump administration were now to submit those reports—for rules implemented long ago—Congress would be free to vote the regulations down.

Strassel acknowledged that it “would take intestinal fortitude” for Republicans to pursue this strategy, but described it as being a “fitting and just end to Mr. Obama’s abuse of authority.”