What is the Congressional Review Act?

By Congressman Bradley Byrne

Rolling back regulations, rules, and red tape that are limiting opportunities for the American people and small businesses has been an important priority for me in Congress. But what exactly is being done about it?

Well, there is actually a little known and little used law that allows Congress to remove certain government regulations.
In 1996, Republicans passed something known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). The CRA is a tool that allows Congress to review rules and overturn harmful ones issued by federal agencies.

Here is the great thing about the CRA: it calls for the legislation to be considered through an expedited process limiting the ability of the minority to slow and delay the bill. This is especially important in the Senate. While most bills require 60 votes in order to get through the Senate, bills considered under the CRA process require only 51 votes to pass.

There are certain restrictions on the Congressional Review Act, especially as it relates to timing. For example, Congress cannot use the process to go back and change rules and regulations passed many years ago. Additionally, it can only be used for rules and regulations published by federal agencies, not for laws passed by Congress.

Last Congress, Republicans passed several CRAs overturning regulations issued by out-of-control agencies. Unfortunately, President Obama vetoed all of them.

With President Trump in the White House, Congressional Republicans are determined to use the Congressional Review Act to roll back a number of unnecessary, costly, and burdensome government regulations left over from the Obama Administration.

Our efforts started this week with voting to overturn the so-called “Stream Protection” rule. In reality, this rule was a last minute attempt by the Obama Administration to score another victory in their war against coal.

Reports from the National Mining Association indicate that up to 64% of our country’s coal reserves would be put off limits due to this rule and up to 70,000 jobs could be threatened. The coal industry has suffered enough already, so I was pleased to see us act to block the rule from moving forward.

We also used the CRA process to address a rule that would restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. See, the Obama Administration issued a rule empowering the Social Security Administration to play a role in determining whether or not someone should be allowed to own a gun.

Just because someone may be disabled or may need help managing their finances does not mean the government can infringe on their Second Amendment rights, especially without due process. We simply cannot discriminate against people with disabilities or our nation’s seniors.

Also last week, we relied on the CRA to block a Department of Labor regulation that would take a big hit on small and medium sized businesses who want contracts with the federal government.

This “blacklisting” rule would further increase the hoops businesses must jump through in order to get contracts with the federal government. Due to the cost of compliance, this could greatly limit opportunity for smaller businesses who cannot afford to hire a massive legal team. Thankfully, through the CRA, we can stop this rule from taking effect.

The Congressional Review Act is a powerful tool that we should take advantage of. So far, the CRA has only been successfully used once in our nation’s history.

We need to change that to better serve the American people and our small businesses.

The American people spoke loud and clear in November that they want a federal government that gets out of their way. Through the Congressional Review Act, we are doing just that and allowing the American spirit to flourish.