The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation that would allow Congress to repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of the Obama administration.
This is the second time that the legislation has passed through the house in the last two months. The GOP-backed Midnight Rule Relief Act, which passed the previous Congress — the 115th Congress began just this week — in November, was approved largely along party lines by a vote of 238 to 184 on the second day of the new Congress, despite Democratic opposition.
If passed by the Senate and signed by President-elect Donald Trump after he is inaugurated, the legislation would amend the Congressional Review Act to allow law makers to bundle together multiple rules and overturn them en masse with a joint resolution of disapproval.
The White House has already threatened to veto the bill if it were to make it to President Obama’s desk before he leaves office on January 20, but would surely meet a different fate if it reaches the Trump White House.
“I’m surprised that without hearings, without opportunity for amendment, we are now considering a measure that has this much opposition,” said Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D).
The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), which claims to represent a network of more than 250,000 businesses, sent a letter to members of the House on Wednesday urging them to oppose what it called an “anti-regulatory” measure.
“This would be like taking a chainsaw into surgery,” David Levine, ASBC’s CEO and co-founder, said in a statement. “Businesses depend on good regulations to set clear boundaries and rules for fair competition on a level playing field.” Levine claims that the Midnight Rules Relief Act would, instead, enable Congress to undo batches of rules without any consideration of their individual merits.
California Congressman Darrell Issa, who won re-election in the closest House race of the 2016 election, spoke to the House’s freshman class telling the new lawmakers that Congress has only once, in 2001, successfully repealed a rule by way of a resolution under the Congressional Review Act.
“All this legislation does is allow for us to dispose of one or more regulations in an expedited fashion in this body and have it seen in the same form in the Senate,” he said, adding “It doesn’t change the underlying law.” Issa’s appeal, of course, raised the question of why the new law would be necessary at all.
Democrats saw things differently, with Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson accusing Republicans of bringing a bill to gut regulations a day after trying to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.
“They like the idea of the fox guarding the hen house. They want to put themselves in control of the hen house, so what do they do today come back not with a jobs bill, but a regulations bill, something that protects the health safety and welfare of Americans, little ones, elderly, workers and people who are consumers.
They will tell you that gutting regulations helps to enhance job creation, but nothing can be further from the truth when you consider the last eight years.”
For now, the bill is on its way to the Senate where its fate is still uncertain.