President Barack Obama fought with Congress almost since the day he took office in 2009 — even when his own Democratic Party was in charge. Faced with recalcitrant Republicans, Obama acted frequently through a combination of executive orders and agency regulations on the environment, power-plant emissions, net neutrality, immigration and infrastructure. He raced to finalize new rules before he left office in January. In response, Republicans have turned to a little-known law, the Congressional Review Act, to rein in what they saw as overreach by the man they called “Emperor Obama.”
On Feb. 14, President Donald Trump signed a resolution that overturned an Obama-era rule that would have forced oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. It was the first time a president had signed a Congressional Review Act resolution in almost 16 years. Through March 27, he’s signed seven. Trump has promised to get rid of oodles of government regulations. Right before he took office, federal agencies scurried to issue rules on everything from air pollution to workplace safety. Republicans, who now hold congressional majorities in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, have begun voting to get rid of regulations, including ones on coal mining and gun sales. While Congress doesn’t typically bother with the thousands of bureaucratic rules created each year, when lawmakers want to stop one, they can use the Congressional Review Act. It applies to regulations expected to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more, and allows up to 60 working days to call a vote to invalidate a new rule. Because Congress was in session relatively few days in 2016, it’s not just last-minute regulations that could be voted down. A Congressional Research Service memorandum said that all regulations finalized since late May could be negated.