Earlier this year, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress used an obscure law called the Congressional Review Act to repeal 14 public protections finalized under President Barack Obama.
A holdover from Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the CRA allows Congress – by majority vote in both chambers, with limited debate, no possibility of a filibuster and the president’s signature – to overturn recently issued regulations.
Public health, safety, consumer and environmental protections that took years of resource-intensive analysis, comment and review were wiped out in a matter of days or even hours. In the first five months of 2017, Republicans repealed broadband privacy protections, the stream protection rule, women’s health care protections, the fair pay and safe workplaces executive order and more. Dozens more rules might have been wiped out but for the CRA’s built-in expiration date: May 11 was the last day Republicans could use the law to strike down Obama-era rules.
While they can still use the CRA to repeal new rules finalized during the Trump administration – such as the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule protecting consumers’ right to take abusive financial companies to court – they can’t use the CRA’s expedited procedures to go after older regulations at a whim. The law simply doesn’t allow it.
Never short on creative legal theories or fact-free flights of fancy, some Republicans in Congress have convinced themselves that they can use the CRA in a completely novel way – a way never imagined by those who voted for the CRA – or really by anyone – until now. This imaginatively novel legal theory posits that the CRA can be used to repeal older regulations that were never submitted to Congress.
Exactly how many rules weren’t submitted to Congress – and are potentially eligible to be overturned on this basis? No one is entirely sure, but it’s probably not very many. Nobody has ever looked at this question before for a very simple reason: No one in their right mind thinks that the CRA can be used in this way.
The sheer absurdity of this theory isn’t enough to stop Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives from holding a hearing about it. On Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9:30 a.m. ET, Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing in which they plan to share their fantastical new vision for the CRA with the world.
At Public Citizen, we’re quite excited to hear about some of the CRA’s miraculous new abilities imagined by Republicans, such as its x-ray vision and its ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound! It’s already faster than a speeding bullet, so why shouldn’t it also be able to turn back time and erase parts of our history? Who knows what things we’ve all taken for granted might suddenly disappear now that “Super-CRA” is on the case!
Here are the top ten things Republicans in Congress are sure to repeal using the awesome powers of the new and improved CRA:
10 – SOLAR PANELS
Most Republicans in Congress don’t believe in climate change and don’t think clean energy is necessary. Besides, who needs the power of the sun when you have the awesome power of the CRA?!
9 – FACT CHECKERS
Reality has a well-known liberal bias. The Super-CRA will fix that.
8 – “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!”
What D-Day was to World War II, the CRA will be to the “War on Christmas.”
7 – LATTES
Lattes have become a symbol of wealthy and out-of-touch urban elites. The new Super-CRA will help Republicans finally get rid of them.
6 – RENAISSANCE FAIRS
Renaissance Fairs hit a little too close to home for some Republicans. They’re a reminder of all that the Renaissance period represents: new ideas, new forms of art and cultural expression, science and humanistic values. Renaissance Fairs don’t stand a chance against the CRA.
5 – GRAMMAR
The right’s Internet trolls and commenters have never been fond of proper punctuation or spelling. So Republicans have decided that grammar must go.
4 – HOLLYWOOD
Republicans have never liked Hollywood. Maybe it’s the celebrities. Maybe it’s the liberals. Maybe it’s the sunshine and clear air. Whatever their reasons, the Super-CRA will make Hollywood go away.
3 – MUSICALS
Musicals have crossed the line, say Republicans. Even with the CRA’s expedited procedures, we’re not sure if they have the votes they need to repeal this one. We hear that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) loves Phantom of the Opera.
2 – THE 1960s
The 1960s holds the #2 spot on the GOP’s must-repeal list for all the reasons you think. The CRA will wipe this decade from history and replace it with another decade. Republicans have yet to reach consensus on a replacement decade. It just better not be a decade that has lattes, Renaissance fairs or musicals.
And the number one thing Republicans want to repeal using the Super-CRA is….