“There is a saying in Washington, that ‘Regulators never met a rule they didn’t like.’ Federal agencies have been binding the hands of the American people for decades with overreaching regulations,” says Heritage legal expert Paul Larkin.
But last year, Larkin and Todd Gaziano, a former Heritage scholar and now executive director of the Pacific Legal Foundation, handed Congress a tool that would help kill more regulations than all previous administrations combined.
They did that by promoting the Congressional Review Act, a rule created in 1996 that helps Congress avoid the usual wheeling and dealing that slows down or kills a vote to overturn a rule created by a federal agency.
Instead, Congress can take a rule off the books through a simple “up” or “down” majority vote. Additionally, when the Congressional Review Act is used to veto a rule, that rule and any like it can never be reinstated.
The Wall Street Journal took note of Larkin and Gaziano’s influence.
“Spearheading this review is the Pacific Legal Foundation’s Todd Gaziano—who helped write the 1996 act—and the Heritage Foundation’s Paul Larkin. Their legal findings, and a growing list of rules that might be subject to CRA, are on www.redtaperollback.com,” the Journal wrote.
Susan Dudley, a top regulatory official under George W. Bush’s administration, called the Congressional Review Act “a sledgehammer.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan called the Congressional Review Act “the quickest, most surefire way to undo President Obama’s liberal, jobs-crushing legacy.”
Congress has knocked out 14 major regulations so far, saving Americans $36.2 billion and 4.2 million hours of paperwork. But there are still billions of dollars and millions of hours’ worth of regulations to go.
Congressional Review Act Timeline
In INS v. Chadha, the Supreme Court struck down Congress’ first attempt to give itself the power to easily nullify a bureaucratic regulation it objects to.
The Congressional Review Act passed, enabling Congress to expeditiously nullify administrative rules that it finds unnecessary or unwise.
Agencies submitted 57,000+ rules to Congress, but there were just 72 joint resolutions of disapproval from Congress. Only one Congressional Review Act resolution became law and overturned a regulation.
Larkin and Gaziano released research that the Congressional Review Act can be used to strike down any formal or informal regulation by an agency that hasn’t been reported to Congress, going all the way back to 1996.
The Congressional Review Act was used to get rid of “midnight regulations” that were issued after Trump’s election, but before Obama left office.
The Congressional Review Act had been used by Trump and Congress to kill 14 regulations thus far. American people are saved $36.2 billion and 4.2 million hours of paperwork and hassle, according to the American Action Forum.
Larkin published an article in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy explaining why the Congressional Review Act applies to a broad range of agency policy statements, guidance manuals, opinion letters, and the like, and why Congress and President Trump should work together to identify and nullify unwise rules that were never submitted to Congress as the Congressional Review Act requires. Paul J. Larkin, Jr., Reawakening the Congressional Review Act, 41 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 187 (2018)
“There is no doubt that [Office of Management and Budget Director] Mick Mulvaney was fully aware of the position of The Heritage Foundation as to the usefulness of the CRA in eliminating needless or unwise agency rules,” said Larkin.
This summer, Larkin will publish an article explaining how Congress and the administration can and should work together toward that goal.