With Astonishing SpeedBecause of the CRA’s expedited procedures, little deliberation was exercised over whether Obama-era rules should have been preserved. The whole process – from start to finish – took a few weeks at most, a lightning-quick pace by inside-the-Beltway standards. The resolutions were not the subject of investigative hearings or even much in the way of floor debates.
In contrast, the eliminated rules were often the result of several years’ worth of careful analysis, carried out by some of the leading experts in the relevant fields of engineering, law, medicine, and science.
- 16: Number of resolutions of disapproval signed by President Trump. See the list.
- 41 percent: Nearly half of all the legislation Trump signed between Inauguration Day and May 18, the day the CRA window finally closed for rules issued during the Obama administration (14 of 34 bills), were CRA resolutions. Since May 18, Trump has signed 1 additional CRA resolution.
- 3 years vs. 48 days: On average, the 15 rules that were eliminated through the CRA had been in the works for roughly three years each. In contrast, it only took an average of 48 days to eliminate each of those 15 rules using the CRA’s procedures. The 16th agency action that Congress rolled back using the CRA – the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s auto lending bulletin – was a guidance document rather than a rule. (Because guidance documents do not have the independent force of law and are often intended to reduce regulatory uncertainty for affected industries, this form of agency action typically does not undergo the same extensive development process as rules.) It took a total of only 33 days to eliminate that action using the CRA’s procedures. Learn more.
What We’re Losing
Using the CRA’s backdoor procedures, Congress was busy denying us all the considerable benefits that these rules would have otherwise delivered. Those benefits include more jobs, improved environmental protections, greater financial security, safer workplaces, and better stewardship of our tax dollars by government entities at all levels.
- 156: Number of additional jobs that would have been created on net per year between 2020 and 2040 by the Department of the Interior’s stream protection rule. Not only would this rule have created jobs, it would have also delivered significant environmental benefit to a region of the country that has been ecologically devastated by mountaintop removal mining. Among the rule’s environmental benefits, the agency projects that it would have improved water quality in 263 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year and led to reforestation of 2,486 acres of mined land per year.
- 2: Number of rules that were eliminated through the CRA that were developed in response to Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports highlighting ineffective government programs. Learn more.
- 10: Number of rules that were eliminated through the CRA that would have generated the benefit of saving some government entity – federal, state, or local – money by making more efficient use of their limited resources. Learn more.
Politics Before People
When it comes to vote tallies, the contrast between the CRA resolutions and the statutes that authorized the rules that were eliminated could not be clearer. Thanks to the CRA’s expedited procedures, the anti-regulatory members of Congress were able to use their narrow partisan majorities to push through their agenda of defeating the implementation and enforcement of laws that enjoy broad public support.
- 46 and 4. These numbers represent the narrow margins, on average, by which each of the CRA resolutions passed the House and Senate, respectively.
By the narrowest of margins. All the CRA resolutions that Congress took up during the first several months of 2017 passed by slim, almost entirely party-line votes, underscoring what a nakedly partisan exercise the resolutions were. In the Senate, none would have mustered the 60 votes required for passage under regular Senate rules. Learn more.
- 224 and 60. In contrast, these numbers represent the wide margins, on average, by which each of the main authorizing statutes for the rules that were eliminated through CRA resolutions passed the House and the Senate, respectively.
Thwarting the public will. Nearly all of the rules eliminated through the CRA were authorized or required by earlier legislation that passed with broad bipartisan support, raising the specter that these resolutions were used to defeat the effective implementation of laws that enjoy strong public backing. If Congress couldn’t enact legislation to weaken these laws without causing a public uproar, should they have used a sneaky, backdoor route like the CRA to accomplish the same objective? Learn more.
The beneficiaries of this assault on our safeguards were the anti-regulation forces’ corporate patrons. Financial disclosure data reveal that the lead sponsors of these CRA resolutions received significant campaign contributions from the very industries that most directly benefited from the regulatory rollbacks that the resolutions accomplished. The secretive nature of these resolutions, combined with their direct benefits for favored corporate interests, created the perfect breeding ground for corruption. Even if these CRA resolutions were not the result of an explicit or implicit quid pro quo, the appearance of impropriety they created was sufficient to weaken public esteem for our governing institutions, further undermining the legitimacy of our democracy.
- $465,950. This is the total of campaign contributions that Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) – the lead sponsor of the Senate’s version of the CRA resolution to repeal the SEC’s anti-corruption rule – received from the oil and gas industry between 2011 and 2016.
Pay to play. The lead House and Senate sponsors of many of the CRA resolutions that Congress considered have received significant campaign contributions from the industries that stood to benefit from the regulatory rollbacks. At worst, the CRA invites outright political corruption; at best, it creates an appearance of impropriety that threatens to do lasting damage to the legitimacy of our democratic institutions.
Listen to report author James Goodwin discuss the CRA on KALW Radio in San Francisco, or on Federal News Radio, or on the Bradcast (Pacifica) (starting at around 20:10).