In just eight years, the Obama administration was responsible for creating 22,700 new burdensome regulations on the American people.
During this time, federal agencies seized more power than ever in creating laws on their own, going largely unchecked by Congress.
Regulatory overreach became a hot-button issue during the 2016 election as the American people grew tired of unelected bureaucrats regulating their lives from Washington.
That’s when Donald Trump hit the campaign trail with a message that resonated. Trump told his supporters in September 2016, “I will eliminate all needless and job-killing regulations now on the books.”
Four months later, Trump followed through with his promise. In January, the Trump administration put a freeze on “new and pending” regulations and issued an executive order requiring federal agencies to get rid of two regulations for every new one issued.
A president willing to work toward ending the modern administrative state is a breath of fresh air in Washington. Trump has done his part. Now, it is time for Congress to contribute by utilizing the Congressional Review Act.
Passed into law in 1996, the Congressional Review Act allows 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.
Many conservatives see the Congressional Review Act as Congress’ most valuable tool in dismantling costly regulations dating back to the mid-1990s.
However, in the four weeks Republicans have controlled both the executive and legislative branches, the House of Representatives has introduced only 24 joint resolutions and passed just six of them over to the Senate for approval.
Of those six, the Senate has only passed three to be signed into law by Trump. He has signed all three.
The question begging to be answered here is, what’s the hold up?
For what it’s worth, the Senate has been brought to a grinding halt due to the unprecedented obstruction Senate Democrats have imposed on Trump’s Cabinet nominees. But that should not detract Senate leadership from making deregulation a legislative priority in 2017.
As soon confirmation battles are finished, Congress should move swiftly to begin regulatory reform, a $120 billion yearly expense on the taxpayer.
Due to the Congressional Review Act’s unique structure and ability to evade obstruction, there are a few steps the Senate should take to start voting on these joint resolutions at a more consistent rate.
Perhaps one of the most important components of the Senate is time. Time is allocated to both the minority and majority party to debate legislation. The minority party often uses debate time to drag out the legislative process in order to slow down the opposition’s agenda.
Thankfully, the Congressional Review Act removes the filibuster from being used to block regulations from being overturned. Instead, debate is limited to 10 hours, and then the resolution overturning the rule can be passed with only a majority vote.
However, a little-noticed provision in the statute allows for those 10 hours to be even further reduced—again, only with a majority vote. Assuming all Senate Republicans voted together, that means the Senate could pass resolutions disproving troves of Obama-era regulations, with minimal debate and only a simple majority vote.
In addition, the Senate has yet to take up the Midnight Rules Relief Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support on Jan. 4, 2017. This legislation would allow the House to batch up several of the Obama administration’s “midnight regulations” to be repealed in one resolution.
If passed and signed into law, the House would be able to speed up the process exponentially.
The House has already shown it is willing to do its part. It is simply waiting on the Senate to take action.
For a Congress looking to undo the damaging regulatory legacy of President Barack Obama, the Congressional Review Act is a gift. It just needs to be used.