Congressional Democrats face a deadline of April 4 to begin striking down dozens of Trump-era deregulatory rules on the environment, oil drilling, LGBTQ rights and other issues under a measure that allows lawmakers to rescind eleventh-hour orders by the previous administration.
The Congressional Review Act allows Congress, by a majority vote in the House and Senate with no filibuster, to rescind rules that were issued by the Trump administration since last Aug. 21.
Watchdog groups, noting that Democrats have yet to take any action, say the clock is running out.
“The deadline for introducing CRA resolutions is only a month away,” said Matt Kent, a regulatory policy specialist for Public Citizen. “The House and Senate majorities must act in the coming weeks if they intend to use the CRA to repeal parts of Trump’s disastrous deregulatory legacy.”
Mr. Trump also used the CRA to repeal 16 Obama-era rules, several of which had restricted land management or hunting on federal lands in western states. One CRA bill signed by Mr. Trump, with Vice President Mike Pence providing the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, reversed Obama policy by allowing states to withhold federal dollars from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.
At the time, members of the Western Caucus estimated that 11 of the CRA bills signed by Mr. Trump would save the economy more than $10 billion over 20 years and reduce paperwork for businesses by more than 4 million hours per year.
Public Citizen said that when Mr. Trump lost the election in November, his administration initiated a rush to complete last-minute rules that often came up short of the requirements for taking effect. The group said the hastily created rules are now more vulnerable to being overturned.
Among them are more than a dozen last-minute Trump regulatory roll backs that never took legal affect in areas regarding consumers, workers, immigrants, women’s health, LGBTQ communities, small farmers and the environment, the group said.
“It is now in the hands of the Biden administration, with the help of Congress, to “roll back the clock” on some of the worst last-minute Trump regulatory roll backs,” Public Citizen said.
In its report, the group said a new Trump restriction on asylum seekers from last Nov. 20 didn’t take effect because it was not submitted to the House as required under the CRA. And a rule that would make it easier for immigration judges to reject applications from immigrants including asylum seekers also is in legal limbo because it was submitted to Congress after the Biden administration imposed a “freeze” on Trump rules on its first day in office.
Many of the Trump rules that are being targeted fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency. They include measures on methane emissions in the oil and gas sector and on waste streams produced by steam electric power plants and reclassifications of air pollution sources.
Under the CRA, Congress can overturn “major” rules issued by federal agencies, defined as rules that have an annual impact of $100 million or more on the economy. Congress has a “look-back” period of 60 legislative days from the date a rule was published in the Federal Register to review it and vote to rescind it.
If Mr. Biden then signs the joint resolution of disapproval, the rule cannot take effect.