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Someone Please Tell The Activists and Media That Congress Can Block Trump Regulatory Rollbacks

Congressional Review Act Powers Being Ignored

House Democrats Could Put Enormous Pressure On Senate Republicans, But Fail To

Even Republicans Like Birds

The Congressional Review Act of 1996 established expedited (or “fast track”) procedures by which Congress may disapprove a broad range of regulatory rules issued by federal agencies by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval. ~~~ Disapproval of Regulations by Congress: Procedure Under the Congressional Review Act (Congressional Research Service)

[Update:1/26/21 – Once again we were way out in front of the “experts”. Finally, someone calls for the Congressional Review Act, see today’s NY Times Op-Ed.

By now, it has been thoroughly documented, reported by the media, and is well known by the public that the Trump administration – most notably the EPA – unilaterally has rolled back scores of regulations that protect public health, the environment, labor, and consumers (for the environmental regulatory arena, see:

Each news report of these rollbacks include howls of criticism from various activists – with whom I obviously agree – and Democrats.

That criticism is typically followed by lawsuits, various protests, hundreds of thousands of public comments to the regulators opposing the rule change, and scathingly critical editorials.

Sometimes, these unilateral Trump regulatory rollbacks are opposed on the grounds of an abuse of Executive power, particularly by Congressional Democrats.

The Democratically controlled States of California, Washington, Oregon and NJ considered legislation – and perhaps since passed, I’ve not kept current with the State efforts – to prevent these rollbacks. Worse, in California – the prime target of Trump’s attacks – Democratic Gov. Newsom even vetoed legislation designed to block some Trump rollbacks.

(Similarly, State regulatory agencies, relying on State law, could promulgate the prior federal standards as State regulations to block Trump rollbacks. Again, this has not been done, at least not by NJ DEP).

I do know that NJ – a State with a Democratic Gov. and Democratic control of both houses of the Legislature – has not passed this legislation (see bill A-5033/S3277).  Worse, NJ Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order on regulatory policy even undermines that bill. (see this post for details on that).

Regardless, State level action is ad hoc and not the best vehicle to wage this federal fight, which is national in scope.

But completely ignored in this activism and media and partisan Democratic opposition is the fact that Congress has the power to block all these Trump regulatory rollbacks via joint resolution that does not require Trump’s signature.

The Congressional Review Act provides this power: (WiKi – emphasis mine)

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) … empowers Congress to review, by means of an expedited legislative process, new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by passage of a joint resolution, to overrule a regulation.

Yet, as far as I know, this power has not been deployed to even attempt to block one Trump regulatory rollback.

Why have the Democrats – at the State and federal level – failed to even try to block Trump regulatory rollbacks? Why have Democratically controlled State legislatures failed to pass legislation blocking Trump rollbacks? Why have State agencies under Democratic Governors failed to promulgate State regulations to block Trump rollbacks?

(In contrast, our NJ readers will recall that we led the charge by urging NJ activists to deploy a similar State tool by urging the NJ Legislature to invoke their Constitutional power to veto Christie DEP regulations that rolled back Highlands “Septic Density” protections. But after a partial veto, Senate President Sweeney cut a dirty deal with Christie DEP Commissioner Martin before the veto could become final).

Compare that Democratic and activist lassitude with the precision with which Trump issues Executive Orders that direct federal agencies to roll back very specific regulations. For the most egregious and under-reported, see:

If Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats were serious, they would hold Committee hearings on every Trump rollback and pass a Resolution seeking to overrule those Trump rollbacks. Each hearing and passage of the House resolution would be accompanied by a press conference, calling on Senate Republicans to repudiate the Trump attacks.

This would force Senate Republicans to defend these highly unpopular rollbacks – including outrageously cruel things like slashing billions of dollars in food stamps, while providing trillions in tax cuts for billionaires and corporations.

The Agriculture Department estimates the change would save roughly $5.5 billion over five years and cut benefits for roughly 688,000 SNAP recipients. That’s down from its original estimate that 750,000 people would lose benefits.

Senate Republicans would be required to defend Trump rollbacks that literally slaughter birds, see the most recent outrageous rollback reported by the NYT last week:

Even Republicans like birds.

So why aren’t Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats doing that?

Why aren’t activists pressuring House Democrats to do that?

Why aren’t Schumer and Senate Democrats banging this drum and calling out their Republican colleagues?

Why isn’t the media reporting on the CRA power and the failure of both activists and Democrats to even try to exercise Congressional Review Act power to block Trump’s regulatory rollbacks?

I think I know why –

I think it’s one or a combination of either that they do not oppose them, are beholden to the same corporate interests that Trump is, or they are not serious, or that they are cowards (e.g. afraid of Trump’s pushback, especially on something like the SNAP food stamps work requirements.)

Is anyone listening? Does anyone care?

Lawsuits, State legislation, and commenting on proposed rules are totally ineffective or of very limited effectiveness and lack political accountability and a link to political organizing.

Why not pull the CRA trigger?

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