Republicans intent on erasing regulations finalized in the last months of the Obama administration have already introduced legislation in the 115th Congress that could lead to a wholesale rejection of agency actions since May 2016.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced the proposed “Midnight Rules Relief Act” on Tuesday, which was opening day for the new Congress.
The bill would permit Congress to void, by joint resolution, to cast aside multiple regulations in one fell swoop. Regulations would have to be deemed economically “significant” to be subjected to the nullification procedure.
The text of Issa’s bill was not available at the time this post was published. If H.R. 21 resembles similar legislation considered during the 114th Congress, it would apply to regulations finalized during the last six months of a President’s term.
An agency would be permanently barred from again creating any regulation blocked by a joint resolution unless Congress granted permission.
In that sense, the Midnight Rules Relief Act proposal represents a radical shift from existing doctrines of administrative law, which require Congress to attempt erasure of regulations on a one-by-one basis.
Among the regulations that could be eliminated if the Midnight Rules Relief Act clears both chambers of Congress and is signed by President-elect Donald J. Trump after his Jan. 20 inauguration are 19 Environmental Protection Agency rules, 13 Department of Energy rules, and 10 Department of Interior rules.
Under the Congressional Review Act, which was enacted in 1996, Congress can use a joint resolution to eliminate most regulations adopted within a period of about eight months before a new President is inaugurated.
While more than 100 attempts to exorcise regulations through the CRA have been made, only one has succeeded.
Congress can also stamp out regulations by specifying in appropriations bills that they are unenforceable or by amending the statutes that provide authority for the regulations.
The House of Representatives approved an earlier version of the Midnight Rules Relief Act last November.
UPDATE, Jan. 4, 2017, 9:00 pm MST: The House of Representatives passed H.R. 21 Wednesday on a 238-184 vote, according to The Hill. Legislators rejected a Democratic attempt to send the bill back to committee.
UPDATE, Jan. 5, 2017, 5:26 pm MST: Four Democrats voted for H.R. 21 Wednesday night. They are Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. No Republican opposed the bill.