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Whack-a-Mole Day 5 – A Brief Presidency

Each day this week we’ll be highlighting some of the anti-regulatory bills that Public Citizen and our allies have been pushing back against this fall.

Midnight Rules Relief Act or the “Three-Year Presidency” Act

Photo courtesy Johan Jonk Stenström/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0
Photo courtesy Johan Jonk Stenström/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Congressional conservatives already have a mechanism for denoting their disapproval of new public protections finalized during the fourth year of an administration. In an effort to further strengthen their power to curtail or weaken these lifesaving standards, congressional conservatives introduced the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 5982). The bill would amend the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to allow a blanket disapproval of all regulations finalized near the end of presidential terms.

H.R. 5982 is based on a fatally flawed premise – namely, that regulations which are proposed or finalized during the so-called “midnight” rulemaking period are rushed and inadequately vetted. In fact, the very opposite is true. There are currently dozens of public health and safety regulations that have been in the regulatory process for years or decades, including many that date from the Obama administration’s first term. Some even predate the current administration.

H.R. 5982 would empower Congress to use the CRA – a process that is rushed, nontransparent and discourages informed decision-making – to block, at the 11th hour, rules that have completed the journey through the onerous rulemaking process. Members of Congress do not have to articulate a valid policy rationale – or any reason at all – in support of CRA resolutions of disapproval. Resolutions of disapproval not only nullify the regulation in question, but also prohibit a federal agency from issuing any other regulation that is “substantially the same” in the future, unless specifically authorized to do so by a future act of Congress. Accordingly, broad disapproval resolutions would wipe out huge swathes of agencies’ authority to address pressing public threats, potentially forever.

H.R. 5982 was shelved when lawmakers left at the end of September, but is set to reappear in the post-election congressional work term often called a lame duck session. Then, expect to see it move rapidly through the House floor process, be voted on and shuttled to the Senate.

Unfortunately, the whack-a-mole game is not over. The above bills are only a small taste of some of the legislation still to come. Right as Congress was departing for a six week recess, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32) introduced a nefarious bill attacking federal agency guidance documents like the U.S. Department of Education’s campus sexual assault guidance and equality guidance. In the next Congress, conservatives will be fully armed with new, sneakily-named but destructive and pernicious anti-regulatory bills, and it’s our job to stop them.

To learn more about joining the fight to stop legislation that attacks public protections, please visit the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards website at SensibleSafeguards.org. The only way to win whack-a-mole is with more hammers!