(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) The Congressional Review Act gives Congress the authority to rescind regulations passed by independent regulatory agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, but it hasn’t used its power.
Under the leadership of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congress passed the CRA in 1996 and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. From 1996 until 2017, Congress used the CRA only once.
Since the election of President Donald Trump, Congress has overturned 14 rules, but there are still hundreds of rules to address. In response, Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-Mexico) introduced a bill to repeal the CRA and solidify the administrative state’s absolute authority.
On Thursday, a House Judiciary Committee meeting discussed ways to use the CRA more effectively, since federal agencies institute thousands of new rules each year, while Congress only reviews a handful of them.
Todd Gaziano, executive director of the Pacific Legal Foundation, said the CRA has not been used enough because rules requiring review were not submitted to Congress.
“There were three government studies that all concluded that were either hundreds or thousands of rules per year that were published in the Federal Register alone that weren’t submitted to Congress,” Gaziano said. “Now, as the chairman indicated, many of these are inconsequential. But the number of economically significant rules that weren’t submitted is a surprising number.”
He cited a Brookings Institution study that found 348 economically significant rules, which were not given to Congress for review. But he said even this number is far too low an estimation.
Gaziano said, however, that the number is truly inconsequential because even one rule put in place without congressional review is illegal.
“As the chairman indicated, rules not submitted to Congress are not lawfully in effect even if they’ve been published. And yet regulatory agencies regularly invoke them and use them to open investigations, enforcement proceedings, and even criminal prosecutions,” he said. “It was unjust and unlawful to apply them in the past and it’s even more unjust and unlawful to apply them currently.”
Professor at the University of Maryland Rena Steinzor testified against the CRA and called for its repeal.
She said the CRA shows that Congress is controlled by special interests who care more about lining their pockets than protecting public health and safety.
“The repealed rules included prohibitions on very bad conduct. That conduct makes no sense to the average American, but it will now be perfectly legal because the rules were repealed,” she said. “The conduct includes: Bribing foreign governments in the developing world to win drilling rights for offshore oil, allowing severely disturbed people disabled by their mental illness to buy guns, shearing the tops off mountains and dumping the debris in streams that serve as the drinking water source for numerous Appalachian communities…”
Paul Larkin, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Congress can challenge any rule submitted since 1996. This, he said, puts a proper check on the unelected officials in independent regulatory agencies.
“Congress enacted the CRA to provide itself with the ability to review and nullify an unwise agency rule before the rule went into effect,” Larkin said. “The different provisions of the CRA combine to ensure that Congress will have that opportunity. A straightforward reading of the plain language of the CRA as ordinarily interpreted would allow Congress to eliminate any rule that an agency has not submitted to Congress since the act became law in 1996.”