House to take big step on eliminating Trump-era rules
The House is gearing up for votes this week to undo three Trump-era rules, using a special legislative tool to repeal some of the previous administration’s agency actions.
Democrats will draw on the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to take aim at rules governing methane regulations, lending practices and employment discrimination cases.
The three resolutions, which made it through the Senate on simple majority votes that included Republicans crossing the aisle on two of the measures, all have a good chance of clearing the House.
Sending the measures to President Biden’s desk would deal a blow to former President Trump’s legacy and mark the first time Congress has repealed his administration’s policies through the CRA, which allows lawmakers and a new president to get rid of rules established under a previous president if they were completed shortly before the change in administration.
“You have lots of different tools that you can use to shift regulatory policy. This tool comes with some interesting sort of expedited procedures,” said Daniel Pérez, a senior policy analyst at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center.
The CRA is an all-or-nothing tool, he said, that lets you get rid of existing rules, but not revise them.
“It’s a sledgehammer, not a scalpel,” Pérez said.
The CRA was successfully used just once before 2017, but at the start of Trump’s presidency Republicans were able to eliminate more than a dozen Obama-era regulations since they controlled both the House and Senate.
And while some on the left may view this week’s vote as a kind of payback, there are other progressives who argue that Democrats should be pushing to eliminate the CRA, not give it legitimacy by using it against Trump.
“The Congressional Review Act is quite possibly the worst law Congress has ever enacted,” said James Goodwin, a senior policy analyst with the left-leaning Center for Progressive Reform.
He argued that it better serves Republicans than Democrats because the GOP’s agenda is more deregulatory, while Democrats may want to add more regulations, not just take them away.
“Very often, using the CRA puts Republicans where they want to be at. Almost never does using the CRA put Democrats where they want to be at,” he said.
“Getting rid of Trump stuff is never going to be adequate for President Biden,” Goodwin added, noting that Biden will want to implement regulations instead of just getting rid of deregulatory actions.
Still, some observers said they were surprised that Democrats haven’t targeted more Trump-era rules.
“Given how much success the Republicans had using it and how little success it had prior to that … and given how [many] differences there are in regulatory policy between the Trump administration and the Biden administration, just as there was such a broad difference between Obama and Trump, I would’ve thought for sure we were going to see more CRA activity,” said Diane Katz, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“In my mind, it’s kind of a wasted opportunity,” she said.
One of the Trump administration rules on tap for elimination this week got rid of methane emissions standards for the oil and gas sector and nixed limits for substances known as volatile organic compounds from oil and gas transmission and storage.
“This resolution is important, it’s probably one of the most important things that we can do right now because methane emissions are so damaging to the climate,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the resolution’s sponsor, told The Hill in an interview.
Methane is more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to warming the planet, though it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long.
The CRA resolution on lending would repeal a rule that allows lenders to offer loans at interest rates that exceed state limits if they team up with a federally chartered bank headquartered in a state with a higher cap.
The Trump administration argued that the rule clears up uncertainty surrounding who is the “true lender” in such cases, but opponents say it allows lenders to charge consumers higher rates.
Rebecca Borné, senior policy counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending, said that this week’s vote was a “pretty clear choice between protecting consumers from extremely predatory loans” or exposing them to such loans.
The third rule up for elimination requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to provide more information to employers when the agency is trying to help reach an out-of-court resolution in discrimination cases.
The Trump administration said the additional information would improve transparency, while critics said it could lead to retaliation because employers would be able to better-identify victims and witnesses, with employers also having an advantage in potential litigation through early access to information.
“When workers bring credible claims of discrimination to the EEOC, they deserve a fair process that protects their rights and shields them from retaliation,” said CRA resolution sponsor and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) when introducing the measure earlier this year.