The Congressional Review Act: Trump's First-Year Participation Trophy

by James Goodwin | January 29, 2018

Perhaps because he has so few real accomplishments to his name, President Donald Trump has developed a nasty habit of embellishing his record. From the size of the crowd at his inauguration to the number of floors in Trump Tower, he simply won't let a little thing like "reality" or "facts" or even "cardinal numbers" get in the way of his estimation of his own self-worth. Expect this behavior to be on full display at tomorrow night's State of the Union Address, where Trump will no doubt make several baseless claims about his achievements during his first year as Commander-in-Chief. One success he may tout – use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal 15 regulatory safeguards – is a good example of such a claim that withers under scrutiny. 

The CRA is a "Contract with America"-era law designed to short-circuit Congress's deliberative process and allow narrow partisan majorities to attack broadly popular public safeguards on behalf of politically powerful interests. Specifically, the CRA creates a special form of legislation known as a "joint resolution of disapproval," a sort of legislative veto of regulatory agencies' work, that, once enacted, immediately repeals a recently issued regulation. What makes the CRA especially powerful are the procedural shortcuts it creates for passing resolutions of disapproval. Under these procedures, CRA resolutions are temporarily exempted from much of Congress's self-imposed deliberative process – including, most notably, the Senate's ...

Looking Back on a Year of Trump's Regulatory 'Fire and Fury'

by Matt Shudtz | January 26, 2018
Next Tuesday, President Trump will share his view of the state of our union. And if his words correlate with his actions over the last year, the dominant theme will be one of division and disruption. Like no president in recent history, Donald Trump has pushed U.S. residents to cordon ourselves off into dueling tribes whose theories of governance and policymaking diverge and whose basic facts and language are starting to split in disturbing ways. But on whichever side of ...

Trump, EPA, and the Anti-Regulatory State

by Daniel Farber | January 25, 2018
Originally published on The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a central instrument of the modern regulatory state. Whether from the perspective of environmental protection or regulatory economics, 2017 has not been a good year. Experience to date under the Trump Administration is suggestive of industry capture or reflexive ideological opposition to regulation—or both. A multitude of deregulatory actions have occurred. Unfortunately, nearly all of the traditional sources of checks on political leadership—centralized regulatory ...

Implications of the Supreme Court's Clean Water Rule/WOTUS Ruling

by Dave Owen | January 22, 2018
Originally published on Environmental Law Prof Blog. Today, the United States Supreme Court decided National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, a case determining whether challenges to the "Clean Water Rule" or "Waters of the United States Rule" should be heard in federal district court or in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The answer, the Supreme Court unanimously held, is federal district court, and the Court remanded the case to the Sixth Circuit to ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

by Laurie Ristino | January 17, 2018
This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill. As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues. President Obama once referred to the current (2014) ...

Turning Power Over to States Won't Improve Protection for Endangered Species

by Alejandro Camacho | January 11, 2018
Professor Michael Robinson-Dorn of the University of California, Irvine co-authored this article with Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and University of California, Irvine Professor Alejandro Camacho. It originally appeared in The Conversation on January 11, 2018. Since the Endangered Species Act became law in 1973, the U.S. government has played a critical role in protecting endangered and threatened species. But while the law is overwhelmingly popular with the American public, critics in Congress are proposing to significantly reduce federal ...

FERC Rejection of Coal Subsidies Proposal Demonstrates Importance of Independent Agencies

by James Goodwin | January 09, 2018
On January 8, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) struck a resounding blow against the Trump administration's ill-advised agenda to put its thumb on the scale of the energy market by propping up the coal industry, unanimously rejecting a controversial proposal by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry. Perry's plan would have resulted in working families and small businesses subsidizing the coal industry to the tune of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. Dozens of energy policy ...

A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

by Matthew Freeman | December 28, 2017
CPR’s Member Scholars and staff rounded out a prolific year of op-ed writing with pieces covering several topics, touching on the Endangered Species Act, the scuttling of criminal justice reform, saving the Chesapeake Bay, the Administration’s efforts to unravel the Clean Power Plan, and the tax bill President Trump signed into law last week. You can read all 46 of this year's op-eds here, but here’s a brief roundup of the latest: In an October 29, 2017, piece in The Hill, Bill ...

The Off-Switch Is Inside the Fenceline

by Daniel Farber | December 27, 2017
The Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan would require utilities to improve efficiency at coal-fired power plants and reduce the use of those plants in favor of generators using natural gas or renewables. Head of EPA Scott Pruitt claims EPA can only require CO2 cuts that can be accomplished by utilities “inside the fenceline” of a power plant. Under his interpretation, EPA could require a utility to increase the efficiency of a coal-fired plant. But, he assumes, his interpretation would rule ...

Steinzor: Trump's reform won't stop mass incarceration

by Matthew Freeman | December 21, 2017
"Despite the most extensive bipartisan support in many years for the reform of mass incarceration in the United States, the Trump administration has ignored this enormous problem and focuses solely on greater leniency for white collar criminals." So writes CPR’s Rena Steinzor in her latest op-ed in The Hill. She goes on to describe the circumstances under which the Department of Justice abandoned its prosecution of HSBC, and with it a deferred prosecution agreement that would have settled a “massive criminal ...

OSHA Delays Critical Protections as Worker Deaths Increase

by Katie Tracy | December 20, 2017
President Trump planned and then starred in his own ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, symbolic of all the safeguards for health, safety and the environment that he intends to shred while in office. This mockery of the administration’s obligation to ensure the public is protected from harm caused by corner-cutting businesses coincided with the release of the Administration’s fall 2017 regulatory agenda. What this political stunt — and the rhetoric that goes along with it — really means, however, is that ...

Trump's Newspeak

by Matthew Freeman | December 19, 2017
"You don't grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?" Winston Smith, 1984 Donald Trump has never been known for the breadth of his vocabulary. In his case, I’ve always assumed that was a marker of a not particularly curious mind. The guy’s openly contemptuous of higher education; he says he doesn’t read books because he gets what he needs to know ...

Weaponizing Wealth: Unjust Redistribution Upward

by Carl Cranor | December 18, 2017
Is the current "tax reform" going through Congress just? Justice is important because even if citizens are treated dissimilarly by institutions, if the differences are just, all have reasonable treatment and the institutions are likely to be socially accepted.  A widely endorsed theory of justice, developed by the philosopher John Rawls nearly 50 years ago, captures how thoroughly unjust the congressional tax plan is. Understanding this and how it weaponizes wealth against most ordinary citizens may explain why so many ...

New Report: Three Fundamental Flaws in Maryland's Water Pollution Trading Regulations

by Evan Isaacson | December 18, 2017
On December 8, the Maryland Department of the Environment published its long-awaited nutrient trading regulations, capping more than two years of effort to develop a comprehensive environmental market intended to reduce the amount of nutrient and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.  A trading market would allow people, companies, and governments required by law to reduce the amount of pollution they discharge to purchase "credits" for pollution reduction efforts undertaken by someone else. In theory, water pollution trading ensures overall ...

Trump Speech on Deregulation, Fall Unified Agenda Continue Dangerous Assault on Our Safeguards

by James Goodwin | December 15, 2017
This post was originally released as a press statement on December 14 in response to President Donald Trump's speech on deregulation and his administration's Fall 2017 Unified Agenda. Starting on Day One, the Trump administration has perpetrated an all-out assault on essential public safeguards for health, safety, the environment, and American families' financial security, and today, the president took the time to revel in all the damage he has overseen. The administration's anti-safeguard agenda for the coming year promises more ...

Bay Journal Op-Ed: Bay Jurisdictions' No-action Climate Policy Puts Restoration in Peril

by Rena Steinzor | December 14, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Bay Journal. Reprinted with permission. Despite research demonstrating that climate change is adding millions of pounds of nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and his Bay states colleagues appear to be taking a page from the Trump playbook: Ignore this inconvenient truth. Doubts about whether climate change is caused by humans and threatens the planet are rapidly going the way of urban legend. Just ask any resident of Puerto Rico, the ...

Reno Gazette-Journal Op-Ed: Don’t Toss Out Cooperation in the West’s Sage Country

by Dan Rohlf | December 12, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal. During the holiday season, many people put significant effort into plans for getting along with one another at family gatherings. Seating plans are carefully strategized and touchy subjects avoided. We’ve learned that enjoying our shared holiday demands that we all compromise a little. Plans for cooperation in managing the vast shrub-steppe plains of the American West – including thousands of acres in Nevada – are no different. A few years ago, conflict ...

Looking Back on Lucas

by Daniel Farber | December 11, 2017
Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Commission was the high-water mark of the Supreme Court's expansion of the takings clause, which makes it unconstitutional for the government to take private property without compensation. Lucas epitomized the late Justice Scalia's crusade to limit government regulation of property. The decision left environmentalists and regulators quaking in their boots, especially because of its possible impact on protection for wetlands and habitat for endangered species. Ultimately, however, Scalia failed to make a compelling case for ...

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