How Barack Obama Can Take a Fast Track to Undoing Last-Minute Bush Regulations

Obscure congressional process can help Obama and the Democrats undo last-minute Bush regulations.

By + More

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

It seems as if every president, on the way out the door, issues a whole bunch of last-minute regulations, causing the next president's staff to spend several months of precious time figuring out how to undo them. President Clinton, never seen as an environmental hero during most of his eight years in office, issued scores of such resolutions protecting millions of acres of federal land on his way out the door, to the cheers of environmentalists and the jeers of corporate developers.

During his early tenure, President Bush undid much of Clinton's protection, opening the same lands to mining, drilling, snowmobiles, and all manner of destruction.

Now, President-elect Obama is looking for new ways to end this game of musical chairs. Congressional Democrats may have found one:

For that reason, Democrats say that they are also considering using the Congressional Review Act of 1996, an obscure and rarely used process that sets up fast-track procedures to overturn regulations. The law allows Congress to rescind a rule by passing a "resolution of disapproval," which cannot be filibustered. The resolution also requires presidential approval and can be invoked only for a few months after a rule is issued.

Only federal procedure geeks (present company included) and lobbyists may care, but the American public should get interested, because many important laws are planted or uprooted in this fashion. The impact on healthcare, the environment, education, and other critical programs can be staggering.