CHN: Rules and Regulations under Threat
A number of rules and regulations put into place in the last several months of the Obama Administration are being targeted by Republicans in Congress and the new Trump Administration for the potential chopping block. Enacted 20 years ago with the help of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Congressional Review Act gives Congress 60 legislative days to review and override major regulations enacted by federal agencies, with only a simple majority vote in the Senate. With Congress’s schedule, this means regulations adopted since late May or early June – more than 150 rules according to the New York Times – could be potentially vulnerable. The law, if used to override regulations, also prevents agencies from enacting similar regulations again in the future unless specifically authorized by a subsequent law.
Advocates fear that multiple regulations that help low-income and other disadvantaged populations could be at risk. This includes a requirement that employees of federal contractors be allowed to earn paid sick days, consumer protections on prepaid debit cards and environmental protections.
In addition, the House on Jan. 4 passed (238-184) the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 21), which would amend the Congressional Review Act to make this overriding process easier. The Midnight Rules Relief Act would allow Congress to override multiple regulations at once rather than considering them one at a time. The House had also passed this bill in November. Because its passage in the Senate would require 60 votes, it is seen as not likely to reach final enactment.
On Jan. 5, the House also passed (237-187) the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 26), which would require all major regulations issued by the Executive Branch to be approved by Congress before they can be implemented. According to Bend the Arc Jewish Action, this bill could delay or shut down the implementation of critical new public health and safety safeguards, financial reforms and worker protections.
In addition to consumer protections being under attack, the entire Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is threatened. Some members of Congress and the new Administration want to remove the current director, Richard Cordray, and replace him with a five-member commission chosen by party leaders. They also want to take away the CFPB’s independent funding, forcing the agency to depend on annual congressional appropriations. Since it began operations in 2011, the CFPB has returned nearly $12 billion in refunds and relief to some 17 million Americans cheated by financial companies. Nearly 350 national and state organizations, including CHN, signed on to a letter urging Congress to support the CFPB.
Overtime protections finalized in May by the Department of Labor that would benefit 4.2 million low- and middle-income workers are also threatened. On Nov. 22, a federal judge blocked the protections, which were scheduled to take effect Dec. 1. While the judge’s rule is only temporary, it means the litigation will not be finalized before Jan. 20. Many advocates expect the Trump Administration to drop the defense of the rule and kill the new overtime protections. Andrew Puzder, President-elect’s pick to be Secretary of Labor, has spoken out strongly against the overtime rule.