WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday giving Congress the power to kill dozens of recently enacted rules in one fell swoop, as Republicans charged ahead on their campaign to strip down federal regulations.
It was the second time the Republican-dominated chamber took up legislation blocking “midnight rules,” those rolled out at the close of a president’s term. But the previous bill, introduced in November, had faced a certain veto from President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
On its second day back in session, the House passed the bill on a vote of 238 to 184. The Senate is expected to soon consider companion legislation, which could face a harder time because it would need eight votes from Democrats.
Under a law known as the Congressional Review Act, Congress has the right to review regulations for a certain period of time after they are issued. That means any federal regulation approved since May could be voided by the Republican-led Congress once President-elect Donald Trump moves into the White House and can sign off on their disapproval.
It takes only a simple majority of both chambers to reverse a rule, giving Senate Democrats little power to block a vote with a filibuster.
As disapproving each regulation separately could span days, Republicans would like to simply vote once to end a variety of new rules on energy, the environment, transportation, banking, finance, education and media ownership.
Many Wall Street regulations inspired by the 2007-09 financial crisis have only recently taken final form or are on the cusp of completion, putting them in the disapproval line of fire. That includes two pending rules on payday lending and mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts - both of which have raised Republican ire.
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“Because outgoing administrations are no longer accountable to the voters, they are much more prone to issue midnight regulations that fly in the face of the electoral mandate the voters just gave the new, incoming administration,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte before the vote. “Waves of midnight rules can also be very hard for Congress or a new administration to check adequately.”
Cutting down regulation was a near-constant theme in Republican political campaigns last year, and is part of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” agenda. The House is also expected to consider soon legislation that would require a congressional vote of approval for any new regulation.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Linda Stern and Alistair Bell)