125 Groups Opposing Use of the Congressional Review Act to Repeal Public Protections

Jan. 30, 2017 | Download PDF

Dear Senator,

We, the undersigned consumer, small business, labor, good government, financial protection, community, health, environmental, civil rights and public interest groups urge you strongly to oppose the use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal public protections that are critical to the public’s health and safety, the environment, and a stable financial system that works for Main Street and not Wall Street.

The CRA is an unreasonably blunt instrument that threatens to deny consumers tens of billions of dollars in pocketbook savings over the next few decades from rules that were fully vetted and considered over a long period of time. These rules enjoyed substantial support across all stakeholder communities.

By promising to use the CRA to indiscriminately block a variety of crucial public safeguards, the leadership of the 115th Congress has made clear that catering to special interests take precedence over public protections to ensure:

  • clean air, water and climate change action,
  • much-needed reforms to Wall Street to prevent the next financial crisis,
  • banks are held accountable when they deceive customers,
  • workplaces are safe from toxic chemicals,
  • non-discrimination and fair pay are guaranteed for all,
  • affordable access to broadband and secure communications,
  • natural resource revenues are used to benefit citizens,
  • heavy duty truck rule and air conditioner rule that increase efficiency and save consumers money,
  • common-sense gun control measures for individuals with severe and disabling mental health issues,
  • people can see the health care provider of their choice,
  • paid sick days for employees of federal contractors, and
  • schools are held accountable for fraud and students are not left stuck under mountains of debt when schools defraud them or abruptly close.

It is irresponsible for Congress to use the CRA to repeal important public protections that are supported by bipartisan majorities of the public. The CRA allows Congress to overturn a recently finalized rule—major or otherwise—through an expedited process called a Resolution of Disapproval. In the U.S. Senate, these resolutions only require a simple majority vote to adopt and then cannot be filibustered or amended.

Once a rule is overturned, it may be difficult for an agency to advance the objectives of the overturned rule in the future. The CRA allows agencies to finalize a rule in the future, but only if that rule is not “substantially similar” to the one that was disapproved. Because the scope of the “substantially similar” language has not yet been tested in any meaningful way, we have massive uncertainty around necessary future regulations that implement laws passed by Congress and address pressing health, safety, financial and environmental risks to consumers and the public.

If Congress decides to use the CRA to repeal public protections that save lives, protect our environment, prevent discrimination or put money back into the pocket of consumers, those who voted for repeal in Congress will be responsible for the consequences to their constituents. In the absence of strong and effective public protections, Congress will revert back to a system of “self-regulation,” which shifts costs on to the public. As a result, regular Americans wind up paying the price.

Those in Congress pushing to use the CRA rely on two demonstrably false claims. First, critics of public protections claim that potential CRA challenges in the beginning of the 115th Congress will only apply to “midnight” regulations that were rushed at the end of the Obama administration. The truth is that virtually all of these standards are better characterized as “marathon” regulations since they were under development for years, if not decades, and are thus the very opposite of rushed. Rules issued at the end of administrations take longer to finish than rules issued outside of this period. Such rules also underwent longer, not shorter, review by the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

Additionally, critics claim that regulations cost jobs and repealing them will create jobs. The truth is that all studies which linked new regulations to job loss claims have been debunked by independent experts and none of the numerous assertions in the past about job losses due to regulations have come true. For example, the recently finalized U.S. Department of Interior’s (DOI) stream protection rule is crucial to making sure streams around coal mining projects are not impacted by toxic coal waste that can then pollute downstream water sources. Critics of the rule, including U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have claimed it will lead to job losses in the coal industry. Yet, even Sen. McConnell conceded that repeal of regulations such as the stream protection rule will not bring back coal jobs because market forces are pushing the energy industry away from coal.

Voters in this election did not vote for deregulation of Wall Street, more polluted air and water, inaction on climate change, unsafe workplaces, fewer protections against discrimination and unequal pay, more food safety scandals, the gutting of consumer protections, and more. In fact, this election was a referendum on the need to hold big interests accountable. Unfortunately, using the blunt instrument of the CRA rejects the electoral message and moves in the wrong direction by rolling back and undermining public protections.

We strongly urge you to reject the use of the CRA to undermine critical consumer, public and environmental protections. Please do not repeal rules that enforce the law and protect public health, safety, financial security and our environment.

Thank you,

9to5, National Association of Working Women

Action on Smoking & Health

AFL-CIO

AFSCME

Alaska Wilderness League

Alliance for Appalachia

American Association for Justice

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

American Family Voices

American Federation of Teachers

American Forests

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)

Americans for Financial Reform

Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Economic Integrity

Center for Justice & Democracy

Center for Large Landscape Conservation

Center for Media Justice

Center for Progressive Reform

Center for Responsible Lending

Center for Science in the Public Interest

Civil Justice, Inc.

Clean Air Task Force

Clean Water Action

Connecticut Association for Human Services

Consumer Action

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of California

Consumer Law Office of William E. Kennedy

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Corporate Accountability International

Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED)

Daily Kos

Dann Law Firm

Demand Progress

Donovan Litigation Group, LLC

Earthjustice

EarthRights International

Earthworks

Economic Policy Institute Policy Center

Environment America

Environmental Integrity Project

Equal Rights Advocates

Equal Rights Advocates

Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection

Floyd W. Bybee, BYBEE LAW CENTER, PLC

Food & Water Watch

Free Press Action Fund

GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality

Global Witness

GOLDSMITH & ASSOCIATES, LLC

Green America

Greenpeace

Health Justice Project

Higher Ed, Not Debt and Generation Progress

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA)

Indiana Consumer Law Group

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)

Janelle Mason Mikac, J. Hegg Law, PLLC

Jared M. Hartman, Esq., Hartman Law Officesm Inc., Semnar & Hartmen, LLP

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

League of Conservation Voters

League of Women Voters of the United States

Leonard Gryskewicz, Jr., Sabatini Law Firm, LLC

Lyons Law Firm, P.A.

Main Street Alliance

Mark F. Anderson | Anderson, Ogilvie & Brewer LLP

MFY Legal Services, Inc.

Micah S. Adkins, The Adkins Firm

National Association for College Admission Counseling

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Law and Economic Justice

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Coalition for the Homeless

National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients)

National Consumers League

National Council of Jewish Women

National Council of La Raza

National Employment Law Project

National Employment Lawyers Association

National Fair Housing Alliance

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

National Parks Conservation Association

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Women’s Law Center

Natural Resources Defense Council

Nature Abounds

New America’s Open Technology Institute

North Carolina Justice Center

Oceana

People’s Action Institute

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Progressive Congress Action Fund

Public Citizen

Public Knowledge

Publish What You Pay – United States

River Network

Secular Human Rights Worldwide

SEIU

Tennessee Citizen Action

The Greenlining Institute

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

The Wilderness Society

TURN-The Utility Reform Network

Union of Concerned Scientists

United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

United Methodist Church

US PIRG

Virginia Citizens Consumer Council

Voices for Progress

West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy

Western Environmental Law Center

Women Employed

Woodstock Institute