GAO’s Rejection of McConnell Bid to Stymie Safeguards Should Put Effort to Rest

Congress Can Challenge Only Final Rules Through Congressional Review Act

May 29, 2014
Contact: Angela Bradbery, (202) 588-7741

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report today reaffirming that the Congressional Review Act cannot be used to challenge proposed rules should put an end to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) effort to do exactly that, leaders of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) said today. Today’s GAO report concludes that the CRA does not apply to proposed rules; it applies only to final rules or final agency actions because they are (1) final and (2) binding. The particular rule in question, as a proposed rule, still has many important steps to go through in the rulemaking process, including public comment, before it is binding and could trigger the CRA.

Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government and CSS co-chair, said: “GAO’s report affirms that the Congressional Review Act should not be used to proactively thwart the work of federal agencies assigned to protect our public health and safety. Let’s hope Senator McConnell finds more constructive activities on which to focus.”

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and CSS co-chair, said: “Senator McConnell asked for the GAO’s opinion and now he should respect it. Challenging a proposed rule through the Congressional Review Act is like calling the batter out before he even gets to the plate. The GAO report ought to put Senator McConnell’s bid to derail safeguards to rest.”

“This is a resounding victory for common sense,” said Celia Wexler, senior Washington representative, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The GAO wisely recognized that proposed rules are, by definition, works in progress. It would be folly for Congress to act to block a rule that an agency is still developing.”

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The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is an alliance of consumer, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, as well as concerned individuals, joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all. For more information about the coalition, go to www.sensiblesafeguards.org.