The Hill 101: What is the Congressional Review Act?

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a legislative Loch Ness monster, much discussed and rarely seen (though the same could be said for motions to “Vacate the Chair” and Discharge Petitions, both of which were employed during the 114th Congress.)

The CRA gives Congress sixty “session days” to overturn a rule issued by the Executive branch. A resolution of disapproval must pass each chamber and is not subject to the 60-vote threshold filibuster in the Senate. The limited 2016 election year legislative schedule means that rules issued as far back as May 2016 could be subject to the CRA.  Read more from the Congressional Research Service.

While forty-seven CRA resolutions have been introduced since 1996, only two have passed both houses and only one rule has been disapproved by Congress — the Department of Labor rule on ergonomics. It’s pretty tough for a CRA resolution to  succeed in its attempt to invalidate an administrative rule, because it is usually subject to a veto by the very president whose administration issued the rule in the first place. The special circumstance in the successful case was that incoming President George W. Bush opposed the rule and signed the CRA resolution that was waiting for him upon his inauguration.

In early 2017, Congress will reportedly attempt to invalidate several "midnight regulations" issued by the outgoing Obama Administration in its final months.

One limitation on the CRA's use will be the time it takes for one resolution per rule to make their way through the legislative process. In late 2016, the House passed the Midnight Rules Relief Act (H.R. 5982), which would have allowed for CRA consideration of rules in bulk. The bill was not considered in the Senate.