How to Undo Years of Government Overreach

“In Washington, there is a saying that regulators never met a rule they didn’t like.”  — Paul J. Larkin, Jr., Heritage Foundation’s senior legal research fellow in the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

One of the big issues of the day is the mounds of regulations that federal agencies have been inflicting upon the American people and businesses for decades, while Congress sat on their collective hands. It is the administrative state gone amok, and it has had the effect of putting a stranglehold on the American economy and freedom in general. I’ve been meaning to write about this monstrosity for some time, but I just don’t know where to start.

In an article for ‘The Daily Signal’ last week, Paul Larkin asked the question, “What if Congress could not only reverse this trend, but undo years of burdensome regulations dating as far back as the mid-1990s?” His answer is the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996. (Download a CRA Fact Sheet here.)

The Act authorizes Congress to “invalidate an agency rule by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, not subject to a Senate filibuster, that the president signs into law.” He continues…

“Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress is given 60 legislative days to disapprove a rule and receive the president’s signature, after which the rule goes into effect. But the review act also sets forth a specific procedure for submitting new rules to Congress that executive agencies must carefully follow.

If they fail to follow these specific steps, Congress can vote to disapprove the rule even if it has long been accepted as part of the Federal Register. In other words, if the agency failed to follow its obligations under the Congressional Review Act, the 60-day legislative window never officially started, and the rule remains subject to congressional disapproval.”

This sounds very promising! Larkin goes on to explain…

“The definition of ‘rule’ under the Congressional Review Act is quite broad — it includes not only the ‘junior varsity’ statutes that an agency can adopt as regulations, but also the agency’s interpretations of those laws. This is vital because federal agencies often use a wide range of documents to strong-arm regulated parties.

The review act reaches regulations, guidance documents, ‘Dear Colleague’ letters, and anything similar.

The Congressional Review Act is especially powerful because once Congress passes a joint resolution of disapproval and the president signs it into law, the rule is nullified and the agency cannot adopt a “substantially similar” rule absent an intervening act of Congress. [emphasis mine]

This binds the hands of federal agencies to find backdoor ways of re-imposing the same regulations.”

To use a phrase from my youth, “Excellent!”

Obviously, President Trump doesn’t need congressional support to undo some parts of the Obama regulatory agenda, for example, and he has been revoking previous Executive Orders with new ones where he can. But, for those more difficult areas, this sounds like a terrific tool for our anti-regulation President and a sympathetic, majority-Republican Congress to work together to not just neutralize but make null-and-void tons of freedom-restricting — and sometimes downright stupid — regulations written by unelected bureaucrats from the past 20 years. In fact, they’ve already begun, and I’m all for it!

EPA, FDA, FCC, IRS, etc., y’all are hereby put on notice!

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