Overlooked law may undo late-night Bush regulations

Folks concerned about the Bush administration burning the midnight oil to push through corporate-friendly regulations may have an unlikely hero to thank: federal bureaucracy nerds.

Politico’s lobbying beat team reported today on a little-known 1996 law that could allow Congress to reverse up to 90 regulations under consideration by a lame-duck White House:

It could take Obama years to undo climate rules finalized more than 60 days before he takes office — the advantage the White House sought by getting them done by Nov. 1. But that strategy doesn’t account for the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996.

The law contains a clause determining that any regulation finalized within 60 days of congressional adjournment — Oct. 3, in this case — is considered to have been legally finalized on Jan. 15, 2009. The new Congress then has 60 days to review it and reverse it with a joint resolution that can’t be filibustered in the Senate.

In other words, any regulation finalized in the last half-year of the Bush administration could be wiped out with a simple party-line vote in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

As TWI’s Matthew Blake reports the White House is looking to ram through dozens of new regulations in the waning weeks of its final term. If adopted, these rules could weaken workplace safety protections, allow local police to spy in the “War on Terror” and make it easier for federal agencies to ignore the Endangered Species Act.

The overlooked law could serve as yet one more black eye for the once-feared Bush legal team as the White House may face wide-ranging congressional investigations over its loose legal interpretations on warrant-less wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, torture and more.

Ironically, the 1996 CRA was passed by Newt Gingrich and the then-House GOP majority to curb attempts by the first-term Clinton administration to institute its own midnight rulings.