WASHINGTON, D.C. May 16, 2017 – Public Citizen is calling on Congress to pass the Sunset the CRA and Restore American Protections Act (SCRAP Act) of 2017, which would repeal the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996 and allow federal agencies to restore the 14 public protections repealed through the CRA process this year. The bill was introduced today by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.).
Passed as part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, the CRA allows a new Congress – by majority vote in both chambers, with limited debate, no possibility of a filibuster and the president’s signature – to roll back public protections issued in the final six months of a previous administration. The CRA also blocks agencies from issuing rules that are “substantially the same” as those repealed without express authorization from Congress.
“It’s the CRA that needs to be repealed, not the safeguards that keep our homes, workplaces and pocketbooks secure,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “This year’s unprecedented rush of regulatory reversals came at the behest of corporate interests that spent more than $1 billion to get their way in Congress – and President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans were more than happy to oblige. As a result, corporate predators, polluters and profiteers who would have been reined in by these rules are now free to abuse, exploit and discriminate against regular Americans, knowing they won’t be held accountable. That’s why the CRA must go and the repealed protections – especially those ensuring the safety and health of American workers – must immediately be restored.”
Use of the CRA to strike down recently issued rules provoked significant public outrage, most notably after congressional Republicans repealed the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy protections. In addition, Americans from all walks of life rallied to the defense of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste limits – and as a result, the CRA resolution targeting the rule for repeal (H.J. Res. 36) was defeated in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 49-51.
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“Public anger will continue to grow as more Americans learn what Trump and Republicans have taken away in obedient service to big business,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “Even Trump, who never met a spotlight he didn’t love, signed most of the CRA resolutions behind closed doors – a clear sign that he knows using the CRA to repeal sensible safeguards is unpopular. Public Citizen looks forward to the day when the protections Trump repealed are restored and the CRA is a relic of history.”
The CRA’s expedited process circumvents normal congressional procedure and allows nearly instantaneous repeal of rules that, in many cases, took years to develop. In less than 100 days, Congress invalidated more than 30 years of resource-intensive analysis, public comment and painstaking review that went into developing the 14 rules that were repealed.
“Over the past few months, the CRA became the GOP’s favorite corporate payback scheme precisely because its rushed repeal process is designed to avoid thoughtful deliberation and skip public debate,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Supporters of the CRA claim that it gives Congress accountability over the regulatory process. In reality, the CRA makes it easy for big corporations to rig the rules in their favor – and that’s exactly why we need to get rid of it.”
The CRA’s carryover period ended on May 11, leaving hundreds of rules from the final six months of the Obama administration in place. However, the threat to our system of regulatory protections will continue in the form of big business-backed legislation such as the Regulatory Accountability Act, executive orders and deregulatory initiatives at various agencies. Public Citizen and its allies in the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards will continue to lead the fight to repel these attacks.