Congressman Nadler Statement Opposing Midnight Rules Relief Act

Jan 4, 2017 Issues: Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement on the House floor opposing the Republican's Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 21).

The full text, as prepared, of Rep. Nadler’s remarks can be found below:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 21, the Midnight Rules Relief Act.  This irresponsible legislation would enable Congress to wipe out hundreds, or even thousands, of regulations enacted during the final year of a president’s term in office, in one fell swoop, with little examination, no deliberation, and little regard to their impact on public health or safety.

“Members from both sides of the aisle have expressed concern in recent years over rules adopted during a presidential transition period – typically the last 60 to 90 days of a president’s term.  But this legislation differs greatly from previous legislation that I, and others, have introduced to deal with this problem.  For example, the Midnight Rule Act, which I introduced in the 110th and 111th Congresses, would have merely delayed the implementation of rules submitted to Congress within the final 90 days of a President’s term, with appropriate exceptions for imminent threat to health or safety, enforcement of criminal laws, implementation of an international trade agreement, and national security.

“This proposal was a response to concerns with last-minute rulemaking under the George W. Bush Administration, which was roundly criticized for allowing insufficient time for public comment, ignoring public comments, and otherwise departing from accepted rulemaking practices.  My bill would have given an incoming president 90 days to determine if any rules issued in the waning days of the previous administration should not go forward.  This modest measure would have allowed legitimate regulatory reform to proceed on schedule, while putting the power to review and overturn controversial new rules into the hands of the newly elected government.

“The legislation before us today, however, goes much further and creates a process to simply erase the last months of an outgoing administration’s regulatory agenda.  Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can overturn a regulation issued by the Executive Branch through a disapproval resolution that must be signed by the president.  This bill would allow Congress to package these disapproval resolutions together and eliminate dozens, hundreds, or even thousands, of regulations, all at once, with little debate over the merits of any individual rule.  And, under the CRA, agencies would be prevented from proposing similar rules ever again, absent explicit Congressional authorization.

“The Republican majority has waged an all-out assault on the regulatory process, trying to add hurdle after hurdle on the ability to issue regulations that protect public health and safety.  Not content to grind the gears of rulemaking to a halt, they now want to eliminate wholesale those regulations that have gone through the exhaustive rulemaking process, a process that often takes many years to complete.

“Even more concerning, this bill would apply to rules issued in the last 60 legislative days of a president’s term – not calendar days, but legislative days.  Given how little we worked last year, this would mean that any regulation issued by the Obama Administration stretching back to June 13th of 2016 could be canceled in one sweeping motion, with hardly any consideration given to the merits of any individual regulation. 

“Article II of the Constitution provides that a president shall serve a four-year term.  But the Republicans seem to believe that this doesn’t apply to President Obama.  Somehow, when he was re-elected by a broad majority in 2012, he was only given a three-year term.  The Senate refused to even consider his Supreme Court nominee, and under this bill, his entire regulatory agenda for the last six months could be undone in an instant.

“While I am sympathetic to the need for an incoming administration to review regulations issued in the closing days of an outgoing administration, this bill goes much further and allows for a rushed and partisan process that could undermine critical health and safety regulations.

“I urge my colleagues to oppose this irresponsible and dangerous legislation and I yield back the balance of my time.”