Congressional Review Act resolution would block Head Start vaccine and mask mandates

A Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution introduced in the U.S. Senate aims to block an interim final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that requires all Head Start staff and volunteers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear a mask.

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) sponsored the resolution in the U.S. Senate on Feb. 14. The resolution had 23 cosponsors, all from the Republican Party, as of Feb. 17.

The Congressional Review Act is a federal law passed in 1996 that creates a 60 day review period during which Congress, by passing a joint resolution of disapproval later signed by the president, can overturn a new federal agency rule. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving of the HHS rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the requirements.

Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 20 rules published in the Federal Register. Before 2017, Congress had used the CRA successfully one time, to overturn a rule on ergonomics in the workplace in 2001. In the first four months of his administration, President Donald Trump (R) signed 14 CRA resolutions from Congress undoing a variety of rules issued near the end of Barack Obama’s (D) presidency. 

Congress ultimately repealed 16 rules in total using the CRA during the Trump administration and repealed three more at the beginning of the Biden administration.

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