As the clock counts down on the twilight of the Obama Administration, the president and thousands of federal employees are hard at work finalizing last-minute regulations that reflect the administration’s legislative and social priorities from the last eight years.
Many Americans are watching closely to see what will make the cut — like an overhaul to stream protection rules from the Department of the Interior. Some are excited to see these regulations passing, while others are unhappy with what they see as a last-ditch attempt to set policy during an interstitial period. Those unhappy with the regulations are about to have a one-time shot at repealing them, courtesy an obscure piece of legislation from 1996 called the Congressional Review Act.
First, some disambiguation:
- Legislation is passed by both houses of Congress after due deliberation and discussion. When Congress passes a law, it’s sent to the White House for signature or veto, and if the president signs it into law, there it will stay until repealed or struck down by the Supreme Court. For instance, the Defense of Marriage Act stood until 2013, when the Supreme Court struck key provisions.
- Regulations reflect rulemaking from within federal agencies tasked with overseeing various aspects of American life. For example, the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule sets out guidelines about how funeral homes do business.
- Executive orders are documents signed by the president to resolve or establish a policy issue. For example, President Obama recently signed an executive order establishing a Community Solutions Council.
All three of these policy tools can be useful. Executive orders are the weakest, because the president can repeal them with the stroke of a pen — something some progressives are concerned may happen when president-elect…