This Week’s GOP Agenda: Jan 30

by | Feb 1, 2017 | News, Weekly Report

GOP Agenda For the Week of Jan 30 – Feb 5:

  • Betsy DeVos’ nomination for Education Secretary cleared the Senate committee 12 to 11.
  • President Trump announced Neil Gorsuch his nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
  • Democrats forced delays in planned Senate committee votes for Tom Price (Health and Human Services) Steve Mnuchin (Treasury) by not showing up for the vote.
  • Nomination hearings for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General will continue today.
  • Congress plans to bring five laws up for disapproval under the Congressional Review Act. These laws include: 1) regulations on coal mining to protect streams, 2) restrictions on methane gas emissions from oil and gas operations on federal lands, 3) a rule requiring the reporting of payments made to governments for the development of oil, natural gas, and minerals, 4) a rule implementing an Obama Executive Order on fair pay and safe workplaces, and 5) a Social Security Administration requirement that federal agencies provide records for the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.
  • Republicans in the House will use the Congressional Review Act to overturn several regulations, including environmental regulations aimed at protecting streams from the effects of coal mining and reducing methane gas emissions from operations on federal lands.

Overturn Federal Regulations

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress to repeal or prevent federal regulations from taking effect. Congress has 60 “legislative days” to overturn, but if a congressional session ends during that time period, the countdown restarts on the fifteenth day of the next session. Regulations dating back to June 13, 2016 are eligible to be overturned, starting January 24th in the Senate and January 31st in the House. In the Senate, the use of the CRA cannot be blocked by filibuster.

Coal Mining vs. Clean Water

The Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule aims to promote responsible coal mining by minimizing or preventing the impacts of mining on surface water and groundwater as well as fish and wildlife. Under the regulations, companies will need to monitor water quality of nearby streams before, during, and after mines are in use to ensure streams return to their prior standards. The requirements also call for companies to use updated technology and mining practices that minimize the impact on local streams and forests.

The law’s supporters say the updated regulations will help prevent water pollution, flooding, and deforestation.  Opponents, including the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt, claim that the Clean Water Act already addresses pollution due to mining, so the rule hurts the coal mining industry by putting an undue burden on mining companies.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Another regulation the Republican Congress has set its sights on overturning is the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, which regulates the release of natural gas into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on public and Native American lands. Wasteful releases of gas through leaks and practices like venting and flaring result in annual losses of significant quantities of natural gas that could be usable by American consumers. It would also reduce the methane emissions that contribute to climate change by up to 35%. Opponents say this law is redundant and unnecessary and could slow innovation and energy development among operations on federal lands.

Other Rules on the Chopping Block

Three other rules will also be subject to disapproval by the House this week, including 1) a Social Security Administration rule requiring federal agencies to provide records for the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, 2) a Securities and Exchange Commission rule for disclosure of payments made to governments for the development of oil, gas, and minerals, and 3) a rule implementing an Executive Order on fair pay and safe workplaces. To overturn these rules using the CRA, Congress will need to pass separate resolutions of disapproval for each one to prevent them from taking effect within 60 legislative days.

Justine Hendricks is a freelance writer, editor, and fitness guru. A bookworm and history nerd, she holds an American Studies degree from Washington College (Md.) and believes in liberty and justice for all.