August 13, 2022

Congress Moves to Erase Trump-Era Rules

The House of Representatives is preparing to vote on overturning three Trump-era rules. Using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Democrats are determined to kill federal agency rules regarding methane regulations, lending practices, and employment discrimination. All three have been passed in the Senate and are predicted to make it through the House and to President Joe Biden’s desk.

What Is the CRA?

Joe Biden executive orders feature

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject federal agency regulations established in a previous administration. The Senate and House have 60 session days to either do nothing and allow the rule to take effect or reject it. With a simple majority in both chambers, Congress can issue a “resolution of disapproval.” If the president signs the resolution, the rule is dead and federal agencies cannot reissue it or craft a similar one in the future.

Irreversible Damage

If these measures receive Biden’s approval, they would be a hit on President Donald Trump’s legacy. The controversial legislative tool has received criticism from some policy experts because it completely erases rules with no opportunity to revise them.

According to senior policy analyst Daniel Pérez at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center, there are “lots of different tools that you can use to shift regulatory policy,” but this rule, in particular, is “a sledgehammer, not a scalpel.”

James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform cites the CRA as “quite possibly the worst law Congress has ever enacted.” The accelerated avenue the CRA provides to overturn a previous administration’s policies has historically been most beneficial to the GOP, because Republicans tend to limit regulations while Democrats prefer to pile them on.

No doubt Biden wants to increase regulations on methane emissions, lending practices, and employment discrimination. But the CRA resolutions will not accomplish that; they will just remove rules implemented by the Trump administration, not add new ones.

It is unclear why the Democrats are taking the time to pass these items if they do not fulfill their policy goals. However, the obsession with expunging America of anything related to Trump may be the driving force.

What Is on the Chopping Block?

The Review Rule, established in September 2020 by the Environmental Protection Agency, removed methane emissions standards for the oil and gas sectors. It also ended regulations and emissions limits for volatile organic compounds (VOC) and their transmission and storage sources.

Erasing this federal regulation would reinstate Obama-era EPA rules. According to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), concerns over the effects of methane and VOC emissions on global warming are the motivation behind restoring tougher EPA regulations and passing the CRA resolution.

The second rule up for removal requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to provide additional information to employers when the agency is attempting to reach a resolution in litigation on discrimination cases. The Trump administration argued that it would increase transparency. Its detractors contended that it could lead to retaliation because employers can better identify victims and witnesses, leading to retaliation. It also could give employers a leg-up with earlier access to information during litigation.

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the CRA resolution because “when workers bring credible claims of discrimination to the EEOC, they deserve a fair process that protects their rights and shields them from retaliation.” Scott and his fellow resolution sponsors believe the current rule does not protect employees.

The third resolution will repeal a currency rule that permits lenders to offer loans at interest rates exceeding state limits if they team up with a federally chartered bank with headquarters in a state with a higher cap. Critics of the rule say it allows lenders to charge consumers higher rates and encourages predatory loans. The Trump administration argued that the rule establishes who is the “true lender” and increases transparency.

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