On January 4, 2017 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 21, the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017, by a largely party line vote of 238-184. The bill, which also passed the House in November of 2016, would allow Congress to simultaneously disapprove of multiple regulations issued in the last sixty legislative days of a session of Congress, if that session takes place in the last year of a president’s term. The bill creates a procedure whereby Congress can consider a joint resolution that disapproves of several regulations en bloc. The current procedure, on the other hand, only allows Congress to disapprove of one regulation at a time.
The Senate is expected to consider the Midnight Rules Relief Act soon, though the prospects for its passage are less certain. In order to overcome a Democratic filibuster, Republicans will need to gain the support of at least eight Democrats before they can pass the bill.
If this bill were to be passed by the Senate and enacted, Congress could effectively nullify any regulation that is finalized within the final sixty legislative days of a presidential term. Because the sixty-day time frame refers to days Congress is in session, rather than calendar days, the actual time frame may vary from term to term and could span several months. In the case of President Obama, the bill would subject all regulations issued since May of 2016 to congressional review.
Many of the regulations issued by the Obama Administration in 2016 have focused on environmental protection, though many others have been finalized on issues ranging from housing to land management. Among the regulations of interest to counties that could be subject to review are the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Planning 2.0 rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule on stormwater permitting for small communities and regulations issued by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education that could impact counties’ implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Proponents of the bill argue that the Midnight Rules Relief Act would expedite the process by which Congress can dispose of unnecessary or burdensome regulations. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has noted in arguing for the bill’s passage that only one regulation has been repealed via the current process provided under the Congressional Review Act (5 U.S.C. § 801-808).
Opponents, however, see it as a clear attempt to unravel President Obama’s regulatory agenda, arguing that the regulations issued during his presidency protect citizens and consumers. Democrats have also rebutted Republicans’ claim that these regulations have significantly harmed job growth and the U.S. economy at large.
Contact: Julie Ufner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.942.4269