Congress uses the Congressional Review Act to abolish another regulation

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By Jarrett Dieterle

During the early months of the Trump administration, Congress and the president made unprecedented use of the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations. The CRA, which was enacted in 1996 with bipartisan support, allows Congress to use an expedited process to overturn regulations that agencies have enacted within the past 60 legislative days.

Despite the CRA being one of the most powerful regulatory oversight mechanisms available to Congress, it was a seldom used tool until the current republican-controlled Congress and White House deployed it 14 times this past spring to overturn Obama-era regulations. Because of the law’s 60-day time limit, however, many observers figured the CRA would go dormant after Congress repealed all the eligible Obama-era rules.

This assumption failed to consider the possibility of using the CRA to repeal rules from independent agencies, which can still act at cross-purposes with the current president. For example, the present head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray, is an Obama appointee who is only removable from office “for cause.” This limits Trump’s ability to insert a new agency head, and sure enough, this past July, the CFPB promulgated an arbitration rule that was opposed by the White House.

Despite its opposition to this rule, the only recourse available to the administration was enlisting Congress to pass a CRA resolution repealing the rule. This week the Senate sent such a resolution to the president’s desk. If Trump signs the bill as expected, it will bring the CRA count up to 15 since January.

Jarrett Dieterle is a governance fellow at the R Street Institute. For more on the CFPB’s arbitration rule, check out this co-authored op-ed by Dieterle and the Manhattan Institute’s Rafael Mangual. Dieterle has also written about how the CRA could be interpreted to reach beyond its current 60-day timeframe.