Giddy over controlling both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time in a decade, Republicans have set themselves a lofty goal: to unravel the legacy of Barack Obama. Health care, trade pacts, environment regulation, financial oversight––you name the policy area, the GOP is set to roll it back.
Washington being Washington, even the grandest projects tend to rely on complex, mind-numbingly arcane mechanisms to get the job done. (This is how lawmakers do what they do: bore and/or confuse the public into ignoring what they’re up to until it’s too late.) Dismantling a presidential legacy is no different. Thus, for the past couple of months, conservatives both on and off Capitol Hill have been noodling over the most effective, efficient means of wiping out as much of the 44th president’s work as possible.
To this end, one obscure legislative tool is suddenly getting scads of attention: a rarely used oversight measure called the Congressional Review Act, or CRA. Passed in 1996 as part of Newt Gingrich and the Revolution’s “Contract with America,” the CRA allows Congress to overturn rules freshly issued by federal agencies without going through all the rigamarole required to pass regular bills. Most notably, CRA resolutions cannot be filibustered, meaning Republicans need only a simple majority in both chambers to get the rollback party started. Those last-minute “midnight regulations” Obama has been so defiantly issuing on everything from fuel efficiency standards to the funding of Planned Parenthood? Any—or all––could easily be rendered Dead On Arrival under the CRA.