Biden Can Freeze Potentially Dozens of Harmful, Last-Minute Trump Regulatory Rollbacks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration should expand its regulatory freeze memo to include at least 25 additional harmful, last-minute Trump deregulatory actions that violated the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Public Citizen said in a report released today. Due to those violations, none of the rollbacks took legal effect until after Biden issued his regulatory freeze memo on Jan. 20. Biden now can freeze these rollbacks and reverse them more quickly.

“Trump’s sloppiness and incompetence has created an opening to undo some of the damage caused by his destructive anti-regulatory agenda,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen and co-author of the report. “Since many of Trump’s last-minute regulatory rollbacks technically were not on the books when Biden took office, Biden can immediately freeze potentially dozens of them, making it easier to eventually undo them.”

Public Citizen is urging the Biden administration to use its authority under the Jan. 20 regulatory freeze memo to pause, review, and potentially rescind these rollbacks, which harm consumers, workers, public health and safety, and our environment. This call for an expanded regulatory freeze rests upon the same legal interpretation of the CRA that Republicans in Congress asserted in 2017 and then acted upon in 2018.

Under the CRA, a regulation has not taken legal effect until it has been published in the Federal Register and submitted to both chambers of Congress. Public Citizen’s report lists 25 last-minute Trump rollbacks that were not submitted properly, submitted late, or contained unlawful effective dates. The Biden administration should direct agencies to identify any additional last-minute Trump rollbacks that meet these criteria.

“The Trump administration’s moves to lock-in last-minute regulatory rollbacks were plagued with unprecedented and unlawful legal tactics that make them much more vulnerable to reversal,” added Matt Kent, regulatory policy associate for Public Citizen and co-author of the report.

Rules featured in this report that should be frozen:

  • Open North America’s largest temperate rainforest in Alaska to deforestation and logging;
  • Allow for more discrimination against LGBTQ communities on so-called “religious liberty” grounds;
  • Weaken protections for wildlife by narrowing the definition of “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act;
  • Require industry-friendly economic analyses for clean air standards and climate action;
  • Establish weak air quality standards for the deadliest air pollutants, including soot;
  • Allow for less energy efficient products, such as showerheads, dishwashers, and washer-dryers to stay on the market longer;
  • Institute onerous procedural requirements for asylum applicants; and more.

The CRA allows Congress by a majority vote in both chambers – with limited debate, no possibility of a filibuster, and the president’s signature – to strike down rules issued by the last administration.