Author

Jace Lington

Jace Lington is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

U.S. Senate approves resolution to reverse Trump-era methane rule and restore standards set by Obama administration

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) on April 28 to block a rule made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Sept. 2020. 

The final vote was 52-42, with three Republicans, Susan Collins (Maine), Lindsay Graham (S.C.), and Rob Portman (Ohio), voting in favor of the resolution. 49 Democrats voted in favor of the resolution. The following 6 senators did not vote: Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). 

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the EPA rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the more than 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

The EPA rule went into effect on Sept. 14, 2020. According to the _Congressional Record_, Congress has 60 days from Feb. 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration. Rules published by the Trump administration after Aug. 21, 2020 fall within the CRA lookback window.

U.S. Representative Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) introduced a companion resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 26, 2021. 

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act (CRA), see here: https://ballotpedia.org/Congressional_Review_Act

Additional reading:

Link to the U.S. Senate Resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/14?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22heinrich+S.j.%22%5D%7D&s=1&r=1



Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court: People may raise Appointments Clause challenges in federal court they did not mention during agency proceedings

On April 22, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Carr v. Saul, ruling that people who were denied Social Security disability benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA) do not lose the chance to challenge the appointment of SSA administrative law judges (ALJs) in court even if they do not first present Appointments Clause challenges during agency proceedings. 

The court held unanimously that issue exhaustion requirements, which say that people must bring up all legal objections in front of an agency before they can use those objections in federal court, do not apply to these Appointments Clause challenges.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the court, which gave the following three reasons people should be allowed to make Appointments Clause challenges even if they did not raise the issue during SSA proceedings:

*The SSA process at issue was not adversarial enough to require issue exhaustion in the absence of an explicit statutory or regulatory requirement

*Agency adjudicators usually lack the technical expertise to address structural constitutional challenges

*Court precedent says exhaustion requirements do not apply to challenges agency officials lack the power to resolve

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, agreeing with the outcome of the case but saying he would have ended his analysis with the first point, that nonadversarial agency processes do not require issue exhaustion.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a concurring opinion agreeing with the outcome but arguing that the nonadversarial nature of an agency proceeding “is generally irrelevant to whether the ordinary rule requiring issue exhaustion ought to apply.”

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

To learn more about the case or agency adjudication, see here:

Additional Reading:

Link to the opinion:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-1442_971e.pdf



Congressional resolution would reverse Trump-era rule specifying when Social Security administrative appeals judges would decide cases

On April 1, 2021, U.S. Representative John Larson (D-Conn.) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a rule made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in November 2020. 

The rule, published in the Federal Register on November 16, 2020, aims to clarify when administrative appeals judges on the Social Security Administration Appeals Council may hold hearings and issue decisions.

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the SSA rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

The SSA rule went into effect on December 16, 2020. A recent edition of the Congressional Record clarified that Congress has 60 days from February 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration. Rules published by the Trump administration after August 21, 2020 fall within the CRA lookback window.

Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) cosponsored the resolution. 

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act and its use, see here. Want to go further? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act.

Additional reading:



Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court rules that FCC changes to broadcast ownership regulations passed the arbitrary-or-capricious test

On April 1, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in _FCC v. Prometheus Radio Project_, a case about how courts should review the actions administrative agencies take. The court ruled unanimously that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not violate the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) arbitrary-or-capricious test and that the agency properly considered the effects of its orders when it changed certain broadcast ownership rules in 2017.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the opinion of the court, writing, “Judicial review under [the arbitrary-or-capricious] standard is deferential, and a court may not substitute its own policy judgment for that of the agency. A court simply ensures that the agency has acted within a zone of reasonableness and, in particular, has reasonably considered the relevant issues and reasonably explained the decision.”

The arbitrary-or-capricious test is a legal standard of review used by judges to assess the actions of administrative agencies. It was originally defined in a provision of the 1946 APA that instructs courts reviewing agency actions to invalidate any that they find to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.”

Kavanaugh held that the 2017 FCC order was reasonable and reasonably explained and that the APA requires no more from agencies.

The case came out of 17 years of attempts by the FCC to change regulations that govern ownership of broadcast media and involved whether the FCC adequately considered how its rule changes would affect broadcast media firms owned by women or minorities.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion arguing that federal courts do not have legal authority to require the FCC to consider ownership diversity.

To learn more about the case or the arbitrary-or-capricious test, see here:

Additional Reading:

Text of the SCOTUS decision:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/19-1231_i425.pdf



Congressional resolution would reverse Trump-era rule about how banking laws apply to certain loans

On March 25 and 26, 2021, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and U.S. Representative Jesus Garcia (D-Ill.) introduced companion resolutions in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a rule made by the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in October 2020. 

The rule, published in the Federal Register on October 30, 2020, aims to clarify when banks are the true lender in situations where banks provide the money for third-party organizations to extend credit to borrowers. 

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the OCC rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

The OCC rule went into effect on December 29, 2020. A recent edition of the Congressional Record clarified that Congress has 60 days from February 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration. Rules published by the Trump administration after August 21, 2020 fall within the CRA lookback window.

The U.S. Senate version of the resolution has the following 6 cosponsors: Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) 

The U.S. House version of the resolution has no cosponsors. 

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act and its use, see here: https://ballotpedia.org/Congressional_Review_Act

Want to go further? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act: https://ballotpedia.org/Journey:_Congressional_Review_Act

Additional reading:

Link to the U.S. Senate CRA resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/15/text?r=2&s=5

Link to the U.S. House of Representatives CRA resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-joint-resolution/35?s=5&r=2

Text of the OCC rule:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/10/30/2020-24134/national-banks-and-federal-savings-associations-as-lenders

Link to Van Hollen’s press release:

https://www.vanhollen.senate.gov/news/press-releases/van-hollen-brown-garcia-announce-congressional-review-act-legislation-to-repeal-trump-era-rent-a-bank-rule

Link to Garcia’s press release:

https://chuygarcia.house.gov/media/press-releases/representative-garc-senators-van-hollen-brown-announce-congressional-review-act

Link to the Congressional Record:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CREC-2021-02-03/pdf/CREC-2021-02-03-house.pdf



Congressional resolution would reverse Trump-era rule about company shareholder proposals

On March 25 and 26, 2021, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Delegate Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam) introduced companion resolutions in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a rule made by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in November 2020. 

The rule, published in the Federal Register on November 4, 2020, changed regulations governing who may submit shareholder proposals and increased the amount of support proposals would have to receive to be eligible for resubmission at future shareholder meetings.

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the SEC rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

The SEC rule went into effect on January 4, 2021. A recent edition of the Congressional Record clarified that Congress has 60 days from February 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration. Rules published by the Trump administration after August 21, 2020 fall within the CRA lookback window.

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act and its use, see here: https://ballotpedia.org/Congressional_Review_Act

Want to go further? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act: https://ballotpedia.org/Journey:_Congressional_Review_Act

Additional reading:

Link to the U.S. Senate CRA resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/16/text?r=1&s=5

Link to the U.S. House of Representatives CRA resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-joint-resolution/36?s=5&r=1

Text of the SEC rule:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/11/04/2020-21580/procedural-requirements-and-resubmission-thresholds-under-exchange-act-rule-14a-8

Link to the _Reuters_ article:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-senate-proxy/u-s-senate-democrats-aim-to-undo-trump-era-shareholder-voting-rights-rule-idUKKBN2BI2BS

Link to the Congressional Record:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CREC-2021-02-03/pdf/CREC-2021-02-03-house.pdf



Congressional resolution would reverse Trump-era HHS rule that added sunset dates to agency regulations

On March 25 and 26, 2021, U.S. Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a rule made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in January 2021. 

The rule, published in the Federal Register the day before Joe Biden’s (D) inauguration, set expiration, or sunset, dates for HHS regulations that apply unless the agency reviews those regulations according to the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). HHS said the rule would “ensure evidence-based regulation that does not become outdated as conditions change.”

The RFA is a 1980 law that requires federal agencies to consider the effects of regulation on small entities such as small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and local governments. The RFA directs agencies to consider regulatory alternatives for small entities and to consider their input and needs during the rulemaking process.

Opponents of the HHS rule argue that the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). According to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the rule also “creates immediate uncertainty and instability throughout the healthcare system at the very time that the public most needs clear guidelines due to a global pandemic.”

On March 23, HHS issued a new final rule postponing the effective date for the sunset rule in response to pending judicial review.

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the HHS rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

A recent edition of the Congressional Record clarified that Congress has 60 days from February 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration. Rules published by the Trump administration after August 21, 2020 fall within the CRA lookback window.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) cosponsored the resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives.

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act and its use, see here: https://ballotpedia.org/Congressional_Review_Act

Want to go further? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act: https://ballotpedia.org/Journey:_Congressional_Review_Act

Additional reading:

Link to the U.S. House of Representatives CRA resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-joint-resolution/37/cosponsors?r=1&s=5&searchResultViewType=expanded

Text of the HHS sunset rule:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/19/2021-00597/securing-updated-and-necessary-statutory-evaluations-timely

Text of lawsuit against HHS sunset rule:

https://democracyforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/County-of-Santa-Clara-et-al.-v.-HHS-et-al.-Complaint-3.9.21.pdf

Text of the HHS rule postponing the sunset rule:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/03/23/2021-05907/securing-updated-and-necessary-statutory-evaluations-timely-administrative-delay-of-effective-date

Link to the Congressional Record:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CREC-2021-02-03/pdf/CREC-2021-02-03-house.pdf



Congressional resolution would reverse Trump-era methane rule to restore standards set by Obama administration

On March 25 and 26, 2021, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) introduced companion resolutions in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a rule made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September 2020. 

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the EPA rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

The EPA rule went into effect on September 14, 2020. A recent edition of the Congressional Record clarified that Congress has 60 days from February 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration. Rules published by the Trump administration after August 21, 2020 fall within the CRA lookback window.

The U.S. Senate version of the resolution has the following 17 cosponsors: Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Angus King (I-Maine), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.)

The U.S. House version of the resolution has the following 15 cosponsors: Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Conor Lamb (D-Penn.), Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.)

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act and its use, see here: https://ballotpedia.org/Congressional_Review_Act

Want to go further? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act: https://ballotpedia.org/Journey:_Congressional_Review_Act

Additional reading:

Link to the U.S. Senate CRA resolution:

https://www.heinrich.senate.gov/download/maz21298_heinrich-king-markey-cra-s-j-res-epa-methanepdf

Link to the U.S. House of Representatives CRA resolution:

https://degette.house.gov/sites/degette.house.gov/files/DeGette-Peters-Lamb%20methane%20CRA%20res.pdf

Text of the EPA rule:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/14/2020-18114/oil-and-natural-gas-sector-emission-standards-for-new-reconstructed-and-modified-sources-review

Link to Heinrich press release:

https://www.heinrich.senate.gov/press-releases/heinrich-schumer-king-markey-introduce-resolution-to-reinstate-methane-emissions-standards-to-protect-public-health-tackle-climate-crisis

Link to the Congressional Record:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CREC-2021-02-03/pdf/CREC-2021-02-03-house.pdf



Congressional resolution would block EEOC rule made at the end of the Trump administration

On March 23, 2021, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced companion resolutions in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a rule published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) near the end of the Trump administration. 

The rule, published in the Federal Register six days before Joe Biden’s (D) inauguration, aims to improve transparency and consistency in the EEOC’s conciliation process, according to the text of the rule. Conciliation is a voluntary process Congress created with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The process requires the EEOC to try to work out settlements with companies instead of relying on litigation in federal courts when the agency finds that there is reasonable cause to believe the employer discriminated or retaliated against an employee.

The text of the rule defends changing conciliation procedures, arguing that nearly a third of companies refuse to participate in conciliation after they receive a notice that the EEOC has reasonable cause to suspect discrimination or retaliation. The agency argued that the new rule might allow the agency to resolve more issues through conciliation instead of through lawsuits.

Those who oppose the new conciliation rule argued that the new procedures could favor employers over workers, violate a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and undermine the EEOC’s ability to prevent and remedy perceived discrimination. 

The EEOC approved the rule on a party-line 3-2 vote on January 7, 2021. After Biden nominated Charlotte A. Burrows to chair the agency on January 20, an EEOC spokesperson told Bloomberg Law that “Overturning this rule through the Congressional Review Act would strengthen the federal government’s ability to protect civil rights.”

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the EEOC rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

The EEOC rule went into effect on February 16, 2021. A recent edition of the _Congressional Record_ clarified that Congress has 60 days from February 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration.

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act and its use, see here: https://ballotpedia.org/Congressional_Review_Act

Want to go further? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act: https://ballotpedia.org/Journey:_Congressional_Review_Act

Additional reading:

Link to the U.S. Senate CRA resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/13/actions?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S.J.Res+13%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=1

Link to the U.S. House of Representatives CRA resolution:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-joint-resolution/33/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.J.Res+33%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=2

Text of the EEOC rule:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/14/2021-00701/update-of-commissions-conciliation-procedures

EEOC press release:

https://www.eeoc.gov/newsroom/eeoc-publishes-final-conciliation-rule

Bloomberg Law article:

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/democrats-3

Link to the Congressional Record:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CREC-2021-02-03/pdf/CREC-2021-02-03-house.pdf



U.S. Supreme Court dismisses case about 2019 DHS immigration rule expanding definition of public charge

On March 9, 2021, the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court granted a request from the Biden administration and the groups challenging a 2019 immigration rule to dismiss Department of Homeland Security v. New York.

The case involved whether the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and federal immigration law when it issued a 2019 rule expanding the definition of those the agency would consider to be a public charge. 

When DHS classifies someone as likely to become a public charge, the agency gains ground to deny that person entry into the United States or deny them legal permanent resident status. Opponents of the rule argued that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing the arbitrary-or-capricious test, which instructs courts reviewing agency actions to invalidate any that they find to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.”

Before President Joe Biden’s (D) inauguration, DHS had defended the rule, arguing that it was within the agency’s broad authority to decide questions of immigration policy. DHS had also claimed that the states, city, and nonprofit organizations who challenged the rule did not have legal standing to file a lawsuit under the APA. 

On March 9, DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that the agency would no longer defend the rule because, in his words, “doing so is neither in the public interest nor an efficient use of limited government resources.”

Under U.S. Supreme Court Rule 46, the court’s clerk will agree to dismiss a case if all of the involved parties file a written agreement that the case should be dismissed. The clerk dismissed Department of Homeland Security v. New York the same day the parties filed their agreement with the court. 

To learn more about the case or the Administrative Procedure Act see here:

Additional reading:

Text of the request for a dismissal:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/20/20-449/171281/20210309101553454_20-0449%20-%20DHS%20v%20New%20York%20Dismissal%20Stipulation.pdf

DHS press release about public charge rule:

https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/03/09/dhs-secretary-statement-2019-public-charge-rule

Text of Rule 46:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/supct/rule_46#:~:text=Dismissing%20Cases,-1.&text=At%20any%20stage%20of%20the,enter%20an%20order%20of%20dismissal.