CategoryFederal

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



Federal Register weekly update

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From March 22 through March 26—the tenth week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,214 pages for a year-to-date total of 16,282 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 988 pages for a year-to-date total of 16,100 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 544 documents:

• 410 notices

• five presidential documents

• 68 proposed rules

• 61 final rules

No proposed or final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 10 significant proposed rules and five significant final rules as of March 26.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the _Federal Register_ as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the _Federal Register_ from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



SCOTUS issues opinions in cases argued last October

The U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions on March 25 in cases argued at the start of the 2020 term. The only remaining undecided case from the October sitting is Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc.

Consolidated cases Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer originated from the Montana and Minnesota Supreme Courts, respectively, and concerned state court jurisdiction related to the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

In an 8-0 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state courts’ rulings, holding that the connection between the plaintiffs’ liability claims in the two cases and Ford’s activities in both states allowed the state courts to have jurisdiction in the cases. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion of the court, her first of the term. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch filed concurring opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined in Gorsuch’s concurrence. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since the case was argued prior to her joining the court.

Torres v. Madrid concerned a claim of excessive force against police officers and whether the use of physical force to restrain a person constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. 

In a 5-3 opinion, the court vacated the 10th Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, ruling that using physical force on an individual with the intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the individual does not submit and is not subdued. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion of the court. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. 

To date, the court has issued opinions in 21 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS to hold argument session in May

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 25 scheduled one case for argument on May 4, the second year in a row the court will hear arguments in May. During the 2019-2020 term, the court heard 13 cases in May.

The case, Terry v. United States, was originally scheduled for argument on April 20. The Biden administration had changed the U.S. Department of Justice’s position in the case after the case was scheduled, so the court appointed a lawyer to argue in place of the U.S. government and rescheduled the oral argument.

Terry is the only case currently scheduled for the May sitting. The court is scheduled to hear 14 cases during its April sitting, set to begin on April 19.

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS grants review in two cases for its 2021-2022 term

On March 22, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted two cases for review during its 2021-2022 term. With the addition of these two cases, the court had agreed to hear 10 cases during the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

United States v. Tsarnaev concerns the death penalty conviction of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of committing acts of domestic terrorism at the 2013 Boston Marathon. The questions presented to the court are: “1. Whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that respondent’s capital sentences must be vacated on the ground that the district court, during its 21-day voir dire, did not ask each prospective juror for a specific accounting of the pretrial media coverage that he or she had read, heard, or seen about respondent’s case; 2. Whether the district court committed reversible error at the penalty phase of respondent’s trial by excluding evidence that respondent’s older brother was allegedly involved in different crimes two years before the offenses for which respondent was convicted.” Tsarnaev originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC concerns whether a private commercial arbitral tribunal is a foreign or international tribunal within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §1782(a). The question presented to the court is, “Whether the discretion granted to district courts in 28 U.S.C. §1782(a) to render assistance in gathering evidence for use in ‘a foreign or international tribunal’ encompasses private commercial arbitral tribunals, as the Fourth and Sixth Circuits have held, or excludes such tribunals without expressing an exclusionary intent, as the Second, Fifth, and, in the case below, the Seventh Circuit, have held.” Servotronics originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments as part of its 2020-2021 term. Its March sitting began on March 22 and will conclude on March 31, with the court hearing six hours of oral argument during that period. As of March 8, the court had agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also as of March 8, the court had issued opinions in 19 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

Additional Reading:



U.S. Supreme Court begins March argument sitting

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) begins its March sitting. The court will hear cases remotely and provide audio livestreams of oral argument, continuing its safety protocols implemented at the start of the term in accordance with public health guidance related to COVID-19. 

This week, SCOTUS will hear three hours of oral argument in three cases:

• March 22: Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid came to the court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The case concerns the regulations governing labor union organizers’ access to employees at worksites.

• March 23: United States v. Cooley originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerns the scope of law enforcement officers’ search-and-seizure authority.

• March 24: Caniglia v. Strom concerns the scope of police officers’ authority for search and seizure and as community caretakers. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit. 

Next week, SCOTUS will hear three hours of oral argument in four cases. After the March sitting, the court is scheduled to hear arguments in 15 cases before the end of the term. To date, the court has heard arguments in 50 cases. 

Additional Reading:



Two Congressmen announce retirement

U.S. Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Filemon Vela (D-Texas), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), and Jody Hice (R-Ga.), announced that they would not seek re-election in 2022. Their announcements brought the number of U.S. House members to rule out a 2022 run to five; Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) announced she would not seek re-election March 12.

Both Reed and Vela said they would not seek any political office in 2022. Reed’s retirement came following allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced last week. Vela did not offer a reason for his retirement, although Ally Mutnick of Politico reported that his district was a potential Republican target in 2022 following Trump’s election success in the Rio Grande Valley.

Brooks and Hice both indicated they would run for another political office rather than the U.S. House. Brooks said he would run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Richard Shelby (R), who is not seeking re-election. Hice said he would run for Georgia Secretary of State. Incumbent Brad Raffensperger (R) has not yet indicated whether he will run for a second term as secretary of state in 2022.

In the 2020 election cycle, four U.S. senators (one Democrat and three Republicans) and 36 U.S. representatives (nine Democrats, 26 Republicans, and one Libertarian) did not run for re-election. In the last two midterm election years, 2018 and 2014, 55 and 48 members of Congress retired, respectively.

Additional Reading:



SCOTUS Public Information Office makes COVID-related announcements

On March 19, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Public Information Office announced that the court will hear arguments remotely and provide live audio streams to the public during its upcoming April argument session. The decision was made in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. To date, all arguments have been conducted remotely this term. 

The court is scheduled to hear 12 hours of oral argument in 14 cases between April 19 and April 28. One case originally scheduled for argument during the April sitting, Terry v. United States, has been postponed.

On March 5, the court’s Public Information Office said that all of the justices had been fully vaccinated. 

On March 19, the court held its first in-person conference since last spring. Some of the justices participated remotely.

Additional Reading:



Federal Register weekly update: Removal of Trump administration’s public charge rule

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From March 15 through March 19—the ninth week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 848 pages for a year-to-date total of 15,068 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 794 pages for a year-to-date total of 15,112 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 520 documents:

  • 436 notices
  • zero presidential documents
  • 39 proposed rules
  • 45 final rules

Three proposed rules regarding federal acquisition regulations and one final rule removing regulations concerning the Trump administration’s public charge rule (which was vacated by a federal district court) were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 10 significant proposed rules and five significant final rules as of March 19.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018