Historic Rollback of Obama-Era Regulations

‘When Americans asked for policies that would allow the economy to grow again, the Obama Administration gave them just the opposite: a highly aggressive regulatory rampage that sometimes veered outside congressional authority, that often hurt the economy and job-creation more, that nearly always empowered unaccountable Washington bureaucrats at the expense of the American people.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the rollback of harmful Obama-era regulations through the Congressional Review Act (CRA):

“Today the Senate will take a cloture vote on the U.S. Trade Representative nominee, Robert Lighthizer.  We know the task before Mr. Lighthizer is an important one. I appreciate his willingness to take on this challenge, and I look forward to working with the administration on pro-growth trade policies moving forward.

“Now, on another important matter… over the past eight years, the American people struggled in an economy that too-often failed to meet its potential. Many struggled to pay bills. Many struggled to make the mortgage. Too many couldn’t find a job at all.  And yet, time after time, when Americans looked to the Obama Administration they got tired left-wing ideology instead of serious solutions.  When Americans asked for policies that would allow the economy to grow again, the Obama Administration gave them just the opposite: a highly aggressive regulatory rampage that sometimes veered outside congressional authority, that often hurt the economy and job-creation more, that nearly always empowered unaccountable Washington bureaucrats at the expense of the American people. 

“Of course not all regulations are bad regulations, many are necessary and even beneficial, but what the Obama Administration seemed to forget in its fit of ideological pique is this key point: Regulations are not issued in a vacuum.  They can harm the middle class. They can kill jobs. They can raise prices. They can depress wages. They can reduce opportunity.  No matter how well-intended, regulations can have undesirable, often unexpected, impacts.  And, in this regulatory avalanche of the last eight years, we saw another example of the consequences of putting left-wing ideology over the lives of real people.

“It’s one reason why Americans decided to go in a pro-growth direction last November.  They elected a new president who, as one of his first acts, ordered the elimination of at least two existing regulations for every new one issued. He called for a regulatory budget to cap regulatory costs. He and his administration took a number of actions that are already helping to turn the regulatory tide back in favor of growth and jobs.  The American people also re-elected a Republican Congress that wasted no time in providing regulatory relief to Americans and restoring legislative power where it rightfully belongs, with the people through their elected representatives in Congress.

“We have a tool that’s proved incredibly helpful in this regard. It’s called the Congressional Review Act. It’s the brainchild of a bipartisan group of legislators, including former Democratic Leader Harry Reid, and what it allows Congress to do is overturn regulations issued over the last 60 days with a simple majority vote.  From its inception in 1996 until this February, it had only been used successfully once.  From February until today, it’s been used successfully 13 times — with a 14th soon to be signed into law — namely, to overturn a number of Obama Administration regulations rushed through at the last minute.

“Getting this done hasn’t always been easy, and we’ve met a lot of obstruction along the way.  Although Democrats once championed the CRA, a tool that’s ‘fair’ in the words of former Leader Reid, our current Democratic colleagues seem to take a different view. They’ve fought against our efforts to deliver relief to the American people just as they’ve blocked and punted and forced unnecessary procedural hurdles on the president’s nominees for months — and that, remember, was mostly for the sake of unnecessarily taking up valuable floor time, knowing full well that it would not change the end result.  Regardless, despite those obstructionist tactics, we’ve continued our regulatory relief efforts because we knew it could make a positive difference for our country.

“This congressional action we’ve taken already, in coordination with key administrative actions, is estimated to result in more than $67 billion in regulatory cost-savings and about 56 million hours’ worth of paperwork reductions.  The New York Times says the efforts we’ve undertaken represent ‘a historic reversal of government rules in record time.’  The Washington Post proclaims it ‘the most ambitious regulatory rollback since Reagan.’  Politico calls it ‘a once-in-a-generation opportunity.’  And that’s exactly right.  In just a few short months, we’ve turned a significant corner from how things operated under the Obama Administration.

“Instead of going around Congress to push through regulations, this president is working with us to ease the burden.  Instead of adding even more red tape to the Federal Register, we’re breaking through it.  Instead of promoting policies that hinder growth, we’re pursuing ones that encourage it.  And the actions we’ve taken can benefit the American people in a number of meaningful ways.  Like hardworking families saving for retirement — we made sure Obama-era regulations wouldn’t stand in their way.  Like students who want to receive the best education they can — we made sure Obama-era regulations wouldn’t hold them back.

“And after eight years of an administration that punished coal miners and their families for simply working hard to make a living, we are finally working hand-in-glove with an administration that wants to help mining families instead. Here’s an example of what I mean.  In the Republican Administration, President Trump used executive action to order a review of Obama-era regulations that attempted to close existing coal plants and prevent future ones from ever being built.  In the Republican Congress, we used the CRA to overturn an Obama Administration rule that would have put as many as one-third of coal mining jobs at risk.

“Together, Congress and the Trump Administration are taking decisive action to support jobs in domestic energy and coal communities. And, as we do so, we’ve seen encouraging news too. According to one report, Kentucky saw a slight increase in coal production last quarter, and federal projections predict that national production will continue to increase over the next few years. I was pleased to see that news. It’s a trend we’d like to see continue. I will keep working with the administration and my colleagues in Congress to continue to protect Kentucky jobs and families.  These examples and others offer yet another illustration of how we can make meaningful and positive impacts in the lives of the people we represent.

“We know there is more to be done.  We know the scale of the challenge.  The growth of the regulatory state has taken a substantial toll on our economy, one that can’t be remedied overnight. A recent Washington Post column cited studies saying that ‘the costs of complying with federal rules and regulations totaled nearly $1.9 trillion in 2015, equal to about half the federal budget’ and that regulations may have shrunk our annual growth rate by as much as 0.8 percent. As the column pointed out, ‘A main rap against the administrative state is that, through its aggressive growth, the executive branch has usurped power from the other parts of government, mainly Congress.’

“But, with the action we’ve taken with the CRA, that’s beginning to change.  Indeed, one reason the Congressional Review Act is so important is because it helps Congress serve as a check and balance on the executive branch. As three former Senators, including former Leader Reid, put it, the Congressional Review Act can help redress the balance [between the executive and legislative branches], reclaiming for Congress some of its policymaking authority.’

“And while we can’t simply turn back time or completely erase the negative impact that Obama regulations have had already, the CRA has allowed us to stop a number of them in their tracks while also preventing agencies from creating similarly harmful rules in the future.  A lot of time and effort has gone into seeing these resolutions across the finish line, and I want to thank each of our colleagues who had a hand in that effort.

“Specifically, I want to recognize those who introduced these bills, or the Senate companion of House CRA bills: Sen. Inhofe; Sen. Grassley, Judiciary Chairman; Sen. Johnson, Chair of Homeland Security; Sen. Murkowski, Chair of Energy and Natural Resources; Sen. Sasse; Sen. Alexander, HELP Chairman; Sen. Cruz; Sen. Sullivan; Sen. Cassidy; Sen. Flake; Sen. Ernst; Sen. Hatch, Finance Chairman; and Sen. Barrasso.  I also want to thank Senator Tillis who was an outstanding advocate for using the CRA process, as well as Senator Cornyn and his whip team who worked tirelessly to bring these resolutions over the finish line.

“This historic regulatory rollback wouldn’t have been possible without their leadership. Because of their efforts and key actions by the Trump Administration, we’ve begun chipping away at policies that have hurt the middle class and forbidden economic growth for far too long. Much work remains to be done, but we’re going to keep working together to help our economy fully recover from eight years of anti-growth regulatory overreach, eight years of missed opportunities, eight years of dreams deferred, and eight years of government that left too many behind.”

Related Issues: Congressional Review Act