Congressional Review Act Impact On Obama Administration Rules

Use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to rollback Obama Administration rules has been a subject of controversy since the start of the Trump Administration. The CRA is an obscure process used only one time prior to 2017. Organizations, pundits, and the press have been critical of the CRA. The New York Times recently called the Congressional Review Act a “legislative cudgel” in a scathing editorial.

What is the Congressional Review Act?

Passed in 1996, the CRA allows Congress to repeal rules adopted within 60 legislative days prior to the incoming Administration taking office. Congress has the authority to rollback rules without the Congressional Review Act, but a CRA resolution is easier to use. CRA resolutions only require a simple majority of both the Senate and the House to pass. The CRA does not allow filibusters of CRA resolutions. By contrast, a non-CRA effort requires 60 votes in the Senate, 261 in the House, and can be filibustered.

The President can veto both a CRA and a non-CRA rollback, but that is unlikely with the current Administration. When Congress cancels a rule through the CRA, agencies cannot work on a “significantly similar” rule without Congressional approval, perhaps the worst ramification of the CRA.

How does the CRA affect the WORC network?

Much of WORC’s progress over the past eight years at the federal level came through federal agency rulemaking. With a unified Republican government, many of the protections and reforms the WORC network worked so hard to establish are under attack through the Congressional Review Act.

So far, a Congressional Review Act resolution has rescinded the WORC-supported Stream Protection Rule and awaits the President’s signature. This rule would have prevented coal mines from dumping waste into waterways.

Congress has targeted two other improvements supported by WORC — the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Methane Waste Prevention Rule and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue’s (ONRR) Royalty Valuation Rule with the CRA.

On February 3, the House voted 221-191 to disapprove of the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. The Senate is likely to vote after the President’s Day recess. BLM’s rule cuts methane waste from oil and gas drilling on public and tribal lands.

Lastly, the vote on the ONRR’s rule for determining the value of oil, gas, and coal removed from public lands is likely in late February or March.

How can you help?

You can tell your members of Congress that you oppose using the CRA to repeal regulations. You can also check our website for action alerts on CRA resolutions WORC opposes. We have an alert on the BLM Methane Waste Prevention Rule now.

If you do not receive action alerts now, you can sign up here.