The first day of the Congress brought a hiccup in the way of rushed changes to the House’s independent ethics office. But since then, it’s hard to say congressional Republicans have done anything but get on with the business they promised Americans they’d do once the GOP held all the levers of power in Washington.
On Wednesday, the Senate began the (probably long) process of repealing and replacing Obamacare, by opening debate on a resolution that would pave the way for the law’s erasure from the books. Senators plan to write instructions for repealing the major parts of Obamacare into a budget resolution. It’s the same parliamentary maneuver Democrats used to pass the law in the first place, when the House passed a different version of the law after the Senate had lost its filibuster-proof majority. As when the law was passed in 2010, the use of the reconciliation process means the majority Republicans won’t have to get 60 votes to end debate. It makes for a longer process, but that gives them time to coalesce behind a replacement bill that is to their liking — and that of President-elect Trump.
Over in the House, the GOP on Wednesday began the work of overturning the Obama administration’s “midnight regulations” — the flurry of new rules passed between Election Day and Trump’s inauguration. They first passed the Midnight Rules Relief Act, which allows Congress to repeal multiple executive-branch regulations at once; the president must also sign any bill which repeals regulations in that fashion. Then Thursday the House followed up by again passing the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act, which requires congressional approval for regulations forecast to have an economic impact of at least $100 million per year. (For more, see this op-ed about the REINS Act by the Georgia congressman, Doug Collins, who introduced the original bill.)
The specifics of Obama’s midnight rule-making are breathtaking. Since Nov. 8, the administration has issued a whopping 145 new regulations, including 31 that cross that $100 million-per-year threshold, according to an analysis by the American Action Forum. And there’s still two weeks to go. In all, the 10-year cost of these new rules is forecast to reach $21.6 billion. The government projects it will take businesses almost 2.5 million hours a year just to complete the paperwork required — and that’s just for five of the six largest new rules. This red-tape production is not only out of line with historical norms but even the Obama administration’s own frenetic regulatory pace, the American Action Forum reports. And there’s still two weeks to go.
The regulatory overreach of this administration has been crying out for corrective measures for eight years now, but with Obama still in office Congress had little recourse for wrestling back the legislative power his administration was usurping. That’s about to change, and not a moment too soon.