WASHINGTON — Democrats in the House and Senate introduced a bill Tuesday that would get rid of an obscure legislative process that has handcuffed rulemakings from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators.
Though the bill has no chance of becoming law in the current Congress, it signaled the Democrats' intent to roll back the Congressional Review Act if and when they ever do reclaim power. Republicans have used the 1996 law to reject 14 rules promulgated under the Obama administration and it has caused the CFPB to delay its prepaid card rule over fears of congressional intervention.
Democrats are frustrated with how swiftly Republicans were able to roll back Obama agency rules finalized in the waning days of the last administration and want to get rid of the process altogether.
“Abuse of" the review act "has allowed congressional Republicans to fast-track the repeal of a host of protections that benefit everyday Americans with little notice or public debate,” said Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who introduced the bill along with Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island.
The Congressional Review Act gives Congress 60 legislative days to disapprove an agency rule with a simple majority vote, which makes it a particularly effective way to roll back rules in an expedited manner. If used, the law also prevents an agency from writing a similar rule without congressional approval.
The legislation introduced by the lawmakers on Tuesday would sunset the law and eliminate the provision preventing a similar rule from being enacted.
The bill comes as Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is attempting to expand the scope of the law by exploring whether the Congressional Review Act can be used to target regulatory guidance.
Consumer groups supported the Democrats' bill.
“This year’s unprecedented rush of regulatory reversals came at the behest of corporate interests that spent more than $1 billion to get their way in Congress — and President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans were more than happy to oblige,” said Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen.
The Congressional Review Act “expedited process circumvents normal congressional procedure and allows nearly instantaneous repeal of rules that, in many cases, took years to develop. In less than 100 days, Congress invalidated more than 30 years of resource-intensive analysis, public comment and painstaking review that went into developing the 14 rules that were repealed,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.