Commentary: Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in introducing a bill to repeal the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a law that Republicans have exploited this year to overturn public health, environmental, and consumer protections while advancing special interests. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The CRA allows Congress to quickly overturn recently issued agency rules – many of which were years or decades in the making – by bypassing Congress’s regular lawmaking process. Once a rule is reversed by the CRA, an agency can never reissue a substantially similar rule unless specifically authorized to do so under a new law. Since February, Republicans have used the CRA to benefit special interests by rolling back a wide range of public health, environmental, and consumer protections — making it easier for internet providers to collect users’ personal information, making it easier for businesses to hide workplace dangers from workers, and making it easier for states to discriminate against family planning providers.
"Republicans' abuse of the CRA this year was a gift to their special interest campaign donors, from billionaire bankers to big industry polluters. But Democrats and Republicans who care about doing their jobs for the American people agree the CRA is a terrible way to work because it's like using a sledgehammer when a chisel is needed. The CRA never should have been passed into law, and it's past time to repeal it,” Udall said.
Last week, Udall led the first successful defeat of a Republican CRA, when the Senate rejected Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) natural gas waste prevention rule. However, since February, House and Senate Republicans have successfully used the CRA to reverse 14 agency rules. In the previous 20 years, the CRA had only been used once.
“Abuse of the CRA has allowed Congressional Republicans to fast track the repeal of a host of protections that benefit everyday Americans with little notice or public debate,” Booker said. “President Trump and Republicans are misusing this legislative mechanism to reward special interests and big corporations at the expense of consumers, working families, and the environment."
“From stripping the privacy rights of American consumers to repealing women’s healthcare protections, President Trump has recklessly used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to abolish 14 critical protections for hardworking Americans without a single hearing or markup,” Cicilline said. “Rather than keep his promise to protect American workers, President Trump has repealed guarantees that federal contractors actually comply with the law—including workers’ wage, safety, and civil rights protections—before receiving new contracts, along with rules to provide economic security to retirees. There can be no mistake that this for-profit President has no interest in putting people ahead of corporate profits. I am introducing the SCRAP Act to repeal the CRA once and for all so that this never happens again and to provide agencies with fast-track authority to reinstate the rules that have been repealed through the CRA by President Trump.”
“Congressional Republicans and President Trump have just provided us with all the evidence needed to conclude that the Congressional Review Act is nothing more than a crass corporate payback scheme,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. “Republicans repealed 14 popular and important public protections, including measures to protect consumers, worker health, and the environment. They even repealed a rule to protect privacy on the Internet; it’s hard to imagine that any American not connected to the telecom industry favored that move – but Republicans responded to their political patrons nonetheless. If there was any doubt before, it’s now certain that the CRA must go. Public Citizen applauds Senators Booker and Udall and Rep. Cicilline for introducing legislation to repeal the CRA.”
In addition to repealing the CRA, the Sunset the CRA and Restore American Protections (SCRAP) Act would remove the prohibition on agencies reissuing a previously overturned rule and would give those agencies greater flexibility in reinstating such rules.