Democrats Back Bill Repealing Congressional Review Act

By Cheryl Bolen

Companion bills to repeal the Congressional Review Act and give agencies a way to reissue previously overturned rules were introduced May 16 by House and Senate Democrats.

Once an obscure, 20-year-old law, lawmakers made full use of the statute when the unexpected opportunity arose and Republicans won control of the White House and Congress in the last election.

The CRA essentially is a fast-track way to repeal regulations issued by federal agencies in the last months of a president’s final year. The law also prohibits agencies from issuing a rule that is substantially the same as the rule that was repealed.

Republicans voted to repeal 14 rules issued in the last half of 2016 under the Obama administration. Of those, 13 were signed into law by President Donald Trump and the 14th is awaiting his signature.

Message to Republicans

With no Republican co-sponsors, the bill introduced by Democrats to repeal the CRA has virtually no chance of passage. Republican leaders in the House and Senate have strongly embraced Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced the Sunset the CRA and Restore American Protection (SCRAP) Act in the Senate, while Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the bill in the House.

The CRA allows Congress to quickly overturn recently issued agency rules – many of which were years or decades in the making – by bypassing the regular legislative process, the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“Once a rule is reversed by the CRA, an agency can never reissue a substantially similar rule unless specifically authorized to do so under a new law,” the statement said.

Consequences of Repeal

Since February, Republicans have used the CRA to roll back a wide range of public health, environmental and consumer protections to the benefit of special interests, the lawmakers said.

For example, it is now easier for internet service providers to collect personal information from consumers, businesses to hide workplace dangers from workers and states to discriminate against family planning providers, they said.

“Abuse of the CRA has allowed congressional Republicans to fast track the repeal of a host of protections that benefit everyday Americans with little notice or public debate,” Booker said.

Public Interest Group Endorsement

The legislation was immediately endorsed by Public Citizen, a public interest organization that is fighting Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

Corporate predators, polluters and profiteers who would have been reined in by these rules are now free to abuse, exploit and discriminate, knowing they won’t be held accountable, Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said in a statement.

“That’s why the CRA must go and the repealed protections--especially those ensuring the safety and health of American workers-–must immediately be restored,” Weissman said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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