January 24, 2017

Giving America Relief From Excess Regulations


  • The Trump administration has frozen any new federal regulations.
  • After the presidential election, the Obama administration released 38 major new rules that will cost Americans $157 billion.
  • Later this month, the Senate can begin to reverse some of the regulatory overreach by the Obama administration.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a memo on Friday freezing new government regulations. This memo follows the precedent set by previous administrations. He asked agencies to delay rules that are pending or haven’t been published in the Federal Register until the Trump administration has a chance to review them and apply its own policy priorities. The administration also will have wide latitude to rescind executive orders, and it can exercise enforcement discretion in other areas.

“Since Election Day on November 8, 2016, the Obama Administration has published $157 billion in regulatory costs.” American Action Forum, 1-23-2017

The need for this action is clear, given that the Obama administration issued “midnight regulations” at an alarming pace. Between election day and inauguration day, the previous administration rushed through 38 major regulations that will cost Americans $157 billion. According to the American Action Forum, in December alone the Obama administration approved 99 new regulations – more than any December since 1993. 

These regulations and others that were pushed through as the Obama administration was headed out the door can now be challenged under the 1996 Congressional Review Act. This law created fast-track procedures for Congress to enact a joint resolution of disapproval that would nullify an agency’s rule. The resolution must be introduced within 60 days of Congress first receiving the rule. This means the Senate can write resolutions of disapproval for rules finalized between June 13, 2016, and January 19, 2017.

The first day to introduce a valid CRA resolution on a rule finalized in the 114th Congress is the 15th legislative day of this session: Monday, January 30.

The resolution of disapproval cannot be filibustered, enabling passage by two simple majority votes – first on the motion to proceed, then on final passage. If a motion to proceed is agreed to, the resolution is subject to a maximum of 10 hours of debate before a vote on final passage. Amendments are not permitted.

If the joint resolution passes in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is sent to the president for his signature. The only rule to have been overturned through the CRA was a 1996 regulation on ergonomic standards.

According to the Congressional Research Service, a rule that is the subject of an enacted CRA joint resolution of disapproval “shall be treated as though such rule had never taken effect.” Agencies may not issue the same rule again, and the resolution of disapproval is not subject to judicial review.

Major regulations that could be subject to resolutions of disapproval under the CRA include:

  • “Blacklisting” rules
  • IRS regulations recharacterizing debt as equity
  • Teacher preparation regulations
  • State and local education accountability rules
  • Energy valuation rule    
  • Energy efficiency rules
  • Public Land Planning 2.0 rule  
  • Methane emissions rules for oil and gas sources
  • Interior stream protection rule

Some major Obama-era regulations will not be eligible for the CRA based on the date those regulations became final. These include the coal ash rule (10/19/15); ozone rule (10/1/15); and “waters of the U.S.” rule (8/28/15). Rules such as these will need to be addressed administratively or through legislation. 

Issue Tag: Senate