February 10, 2017
Republican opposition to eight years of Obama-era regulatory policy has built up like water behind a dam. The challenge – and the opportunity – now facing opponents of the accumulated regulatory regime is figuring out the best channels to use to repeal the individual pieces. With this document, Prime Policy Group will initiate a series of reports on executive and legislative regulatory actions – what happened over the past week and what to expect in the week ahead.
We’ll approach this reporting by dividing regulatory actions into six possible avenues:
CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW ACT
One is action pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA provides for expedited consideration of Congressional legislation to repeal regulations that were finalized within 60 legislative days of introduction. The advantages of pursuing repeal through the CRA is that it is an expedited, time-limited process and Senate passage can be achieved by a simple majority. There are a number of limitations on the CRA, including its application to rules that were finalized within the last 60 legislative days, meaning the clock is ticking and will soon expire on that class of Obama Administration rules. With the CRA, an entire rule must be repealed – not select provisions – and the process may only be used on one rule at a time, not on a group of regulations that might result from a single piece of sweeping legislation such as Dodd/Frank. As of this writing, Congress has already successfully deployed the CRA on a handful of items and lots more will come. One challenge will be prioritizing which regulations to repeal in the limited window that exists, especially with the Senate’s demands on floor time.
|Only requires a simple majority||Limited applicability|
|Expedited process||Entire rule must be repealed, not specific provisions within a rule|
|CRA can only be used on one rule at a time, can’t be done in batches|
President Trump has already employed the power of the pen to direct executive agency actions in a number of controversial areas, including immigration enforcement. The principal advantages of executive orders are that they can be enforced immediately and they do not require Congressional action or approval. The main disadvantage is their temporal nature – they apply only as long as the President who signed them is in office.
|Immediate||Temporal – last only for the duration of an Administration.|
|Does not require congressional action|
The annual appropriations process has long been a favored vehicle for congressional attempts to restrain executive actions through use of “riders” that limit expenditures of funds for particular purposes or limit enforcement of certain statutory provisions. Appropriations bills are favored because they are must-pass items and, given the scope and scale of recent omnibus measures covering multiple agencies, individual riders can avoid specific focus and opponents made to accept them as part of negotiated bargains. But restrictions enacted by appropriations bills apply only for the length of the fiscal year that is covered by those bills. They also require a Senate supermajority, which can be a high hurdle, and a rider that is a bargaining chip can be removed as easily as it can be inserted in the interest of getting the needed Senate supermajority or House majority.
|Must pass for government to continue to function||Must be renewed each year|
|Provision you are inserting can be used as bargaining chip||Requires supermajority vote (60 votes)|
|Provision you are inserting can be used as bargaining chip|
The most impactful means of overturning previously enacted regulations is through the old-fashioned authorization process. Authorization bills create permanent statutes. They are passed through regular-order and, therefore, must achieve a Senate supermajority. But not all authorization bills are created equal. Some, like the Department of Defense or Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization measures, are considered must-pass vehicles either because of the gravity of their subject matter or because the continued operation of the agency is critical to certain activities such as the air traffic system.
|Permanent statute||Supermajority requirement|
Congressional Republicans and other opponents of Obama-era regulations and executive orders have already pursued legal actions in a number of cases. For example, a Labor Department regulation regarding overtime was challenged and an injunction placed on further enforcement by a Federal judge in Texas in November 2016. Legal remedies provide multiple points of entry to seek redress and plaintiffs with a national footprint have sought the most ideologically-friendly venues, often to great success. The downside of legal action is the length of the process and the uncertainty of the outcome. When fewer options were available during the Obama Administration, with the Presidential veto and a divided Congress, legal action was often the best and only option. With unified Republican control, there are a plethora of other options to repeal Obama regulations. In fact, the courts are starting to get busy with Democratic and progressive challenges to President Trump’s executive orders. The worm has turned.
|Multiple entry points||Lengthy|
|Uncertainty of result|
In some cases, the Trump Administration will not seek to repeal a rule; they’ll pull a rule back and re-issue it according to their own parameters. That has happened already with the President’s executive action on the Dodd Frank fiduciary rule. Rulemaking resides within the executive branch, so no Congressional action is needed. The downside is the lengthy process required to pull a rule back and re-promulgate it, especially in light of the President’s recent action requiring two regulations to be repealed for every one that is promulgated.
|Does not require congressional action||Lengthy|
|‘One-in, two-out’ executive order|
Paul has 20-plus years of public affairs experience and works with a wide range of Prime Policy Group’s clients, including those in the telecommunications, energy, local government, and travel & tourism sectors. Among other things, Paul helps guide clients through the complex world of the U.S. Senate, using knowledge of Senate procedure and a wide range of policy issues gained from his work in Senate Democratic leadership. He also helps coordinate Prime’s integration efforts with other WPP and Burson Marsteller companies, and serves as treasurer of the firm’s political action committee.