After the President made it clear that he would be using the regulatory muscle of various agencies such as the EPA to keep implementing his will, Republican legislators began looking for other options to keep him in check. Since they now hold the majority in both chambers, a new tool is on the table in the form of the Congressional Review Act.
GOP lawmakers plan to employ the seldom-used Congressional Review Act (CRA), which gives lawmakers the power to formally disapprove of major agency rules, as they seek to ratchet up their attacks on federal red tape.
“It hasn’t been possible to use this in a divided Congress,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) told The Hill, “but now that it is, we certainly are interested in reviewing regulations to make sure they meet with congressional intent.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) began threatening to use the CRA to stop regulations last year, after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule aimed at cutting carbon emissions from new power plants.
This process gets fairly far down in the weeds for a lot of casual observers, but it’s worth learning about it for the next two years. “Obscure” is a good word for this action, since you could probably count on one hand the number of times it’s been used since the 90s. You can read about the history of the CRA and how it works at this GAO office site. In essence, the CRA allows Congress to review any new “major” regulations within sixty days and effectively shut them down if they don’t approve. (A major regulation is deemed to be one that will have a more than $100M effect on the economy, produce higher prices for consumers or negatively impact competition in the open market.)
The CRA is not subject to a filibuster, so the GOP only needs a simple majority in both chambers to pass. If implemented, it essentially locks up the new regulation from any enforcement action and causes the rule to have “no force or effect.”
The down side, of course, is that it would require the President’s signature to go into effect. Since we can hardly expect Obama to approve what is essentially a blockade of his own regulations there is little chance of success. An override of his veto is also unlikely given the remaining number of Democrats in office. But just as with the “obstruction” discussions we’ve had in the past, this will shine the spotlight on the Oval Office and demonstrate yet again how Barack Obama is standing in the way of the elected representatives of the people. This is the legacy he will leave behind and it establishes positions which the Democrat nominee in 2016 will either have to defend or throw the sitting president under the bus. It’s worth a shot, and the GOP should definitely explore this.