Cicilline, Booker Introduce Bill to Repeal Congressional Review Act

May 16, 2017

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) introduced a bill to repeal the Congressional Review Act, a measure Republicans have exploited this year to overturn public health, environmental, and consumer protections while advancing special interests.  

“From stripping the privacy rights of American consumers to repealing women’s healthcare protections, President Trump has recklessly used the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to abolish fourteen critical protections for hardworking Americans without a single hearing or markup,” Cicilline said. “Rather than keep his promise to protect American workers, President Trump has repealed guarantees that federal contractors actually comply with the law—including workers’ wage, safety, and civil rights protections—before receiving new contracts, along with rules to provide economic security to retirees. There can be no mistake that this for-profit President has no interest in putting people ahead of corporate profits. I am introducing the SCRAP Act to repeal the CRA once and for all so that this never happens again and to provide agencies with fast-track authority to reinstate the rules that have been repealed through the CRA by President Trump.”

The CRA allows Congress to quickly overturn recently issued agency rules – many of which were years or decades in the making – by bypassing Congress’s regular lawmaking process. Once a rule is reversed by the CRA, an agency can never reissue a substantially similar rule unless specifically authorized to do so under a new law.

Since February, Republicans have used the CRA to roll back a wide range of public health, environmental, and consumer protections, benefiting special interests by making it easier for internet providers to collect users’ personal information, making it easier for businesses to hide workplace dangers from workers, and making it easier for states to discriminate against family planning providers, to name just a few examples.

“Abuse of the CRA has allowed Congressional Republicans to fast track the repeal of a host of protections that benefit everyday Americans with little notice or public debate,” Booker added. “President Trump and Republicans are misusing this legislative mechanism to reward special interests and big corporations at the expense of consumers, working families, and the environment."

“Congressional Republicans and President Trump have just provided us with all the evidence needed to conclude that the Congressional Review Act is nothing more than a crass corporate payback scheme,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. “Republicans repealed 14 popular and important public protections, including measures to protect consumers, worker health, and the environment. They even repealed a rule to protect privacy on the Internet; it’s hard to imagine that any American not connected to the telecom industry favored that move – but Republicans responded to their political patrons nonetheless. If there was any doubt before, it’s now certain that the CRA must go. Public Citizen applauds Senators Booker and Udall and Rep. Cicilline for introducing legislation to repeal the CRA.”

In addition to repealing the CRA, the Sunset the CRA and Restore American Protections (SCRAP) Act would remove the prohibition on agencies reissuing a previously overturned rule and would give those agencies greater flexibility in reinstating such rules.

The CRA was designed to go after “midnight” rules issued in the final days of an administration, but as written, it authorizes rule reversals going as far back as six months or more into the previous administration. Since early February, House and Senate Republican leadership in Congress has used the CRA to reverse 14 agency rules, yet prior to this Congress, the CRA had been used only once in 20 years.