But while the president has touted the regulatory-reform agenda as an economic issue, several of the CRA bills target rules that have little or no economic impact. They include the repeal of the FCC’s rules protecting Internet privacy and a bill allowing states to once again block funds from going to Planned Parenthood. The estimated cost of the Planned Parenthood regulation, Batkins said, was just $24,000. “Not every one of these,” Short acknowledged, “is necessarily a job-creator.”
Republicans also scrapped educational accountability standards established under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, a law the GOP had hailed as one of the few significant bipartisan accords of Obama’s second term. Lawmakers said the regulation went far beyond their intent when they passed the bill, but it’s not clear what the Trump administration will try to put in its place. “That sort of leaves education policy in a big mystery,” Wallach said.
Though Congress has reversed major environmental regulations issued by the Department of the Interior, Republicans haven’t touched a few costly rules finalized last year by the EPA, which is usually a top conservative target. The most expensive regulation eligible for reversal under the CRA identified by Batkins is on greenhouse gas emissions of commercial trucks and buses. Yet neither the House nor the Senate has acted to overturn it.
The biggest challenge for Republicans is finding floor time in the Senate, where Democrat used procedural maneuvers to drag out the confirmation of Trump’s Cabinet for weeks after his inauguration. And just like any piece of legislation, they also need the votes. The party has just a 52-48 majority in the Senate, and with Democrats opposing many of the resolutions en masse, Republicans have struggled to get all of their members on board for a few of them. Vice President Mike Pence had to break a tie to pass the CRA bill targeting Planned Parenthood.
Republican congressional aides said the party prioritized axing regulations that were the most “egregious,” but input from industries has also played a role in the decisions. Businesses may have opposed regulations when the Obama administration initially proposed them, but if they spent millions of dollars in compliance costs, they might not want to spend even more to go back to the way they were operating before, nor would they want Congress to suddenly make it easier for a new competitor to start up. That’s especially true in the energy sector.
“If a plant switches from coal to natural gas, which many of the plants were able to do, they’re not just suddenly going to switch back to coal, especially because of the market dynamics right now with natural gas,” Batkins said.
Trump and Republicans in Congress have other ways to undermine Obama’s regulatory scheme in the short term once the window closes for the Congressional Review Act, but none are as clean or as simple. Lawmakers could try to withhold funding for the implementation of certain policies that remain in effect, although they would need Democratic support in the Senate to be successful. And the Trump administration ultimately will decide how aggressively to enforce regulations it disagrees with before they are formally repealed.