House Democrats are urging the Trump administration to refrain from a spate of last-minute rules rolling back health, safety and environmental protections, warning it could complicate the transition process for President-elect Joe Biden and the incoming Congress.
In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said that “midnight rules” — passed in the lame-duck session — tend to be rushed and implemented without giving Congress sufficient time to review them.
“We are concerned that these ‘midnight rules’ may be rushed through without providing Congress adequate time to review these rules, as required by law,” the lawmakers wrote. “These rules could include significant actions that have the potential to weaken air quality standards, lift protections for endangered species, jeopardize national security, or impose new immigration rules.”
Nadler and Maloney pointed to a 2018 report from the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan watchdog, which found that 25% of “economically significant rules” passed during transition periods in 2000, 2008 and 2016 — by the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, respectively — did not comply with the procedural requirements of the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
The failure of those administrations to comply with the CRA “has the overall effect of making it more difficult for Congress to exercise its oversight role under CRA,” according to the GAO, and “can potentially create legal uncertainty for agencies and regulated parties.”
“We request that you immediately instruct agencies to avoid promulgating midnight rules,” they wrote. “We also request that you ensure that before any rule is finalized between now and January 20, 2021, it meets all legal requirements, including a notice and comment process.”
The letter is indicative that Democratic lawmakers may consider reversing some of President Trump’s last-minute policy changes under the 1996 Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the power to overturn regulations issued by the White House in the past 60 legislative days.
It has been invoked only twice, including in 2017, when the Republican-controlled Congress used it to wipe out a number of rules issued under the Obama administration. Whether Democrats can do the same hinges on the outcome of two Georgia Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, which will determine which party will control the upper chamber next year.