Update: House Passes Regulation-Blocking Bill

One of the first Republican-backed pieces of legislation in the new Congress was the re-introduction of a bill that would make it easier for Congress to overturn regulations adopted in the last year of a presidential administration. That could include the FCC broadband privacy regs or Lifeline subsidy reforms that drew fire from Hill and FCC Republicans.

The House passed bill 238 to 184 Wednesday (Jan. 4) after extensive debate on the floor and opposition from almost all Democrats (a handful supported the bill).

Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) during the debate said the idea was to prioritize removing "unnecessary regulatory burdens." He said the target was so called "midnight" regs "cobbled together" in the waning weeks "and months" of an administration.

Judiciary ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) countered that the bill would empower Congress to undo virtually every regulation submitted to the Congress since the middle of last year. He called it a step backwards in protecting critical aspects of society.

H.R. 5982, the Midnight Rules Relief Act, passed the House in the waning days of the last Congress, but not the Senate.

It was been reintroduced under the same name, as H.R. 21.

The bill "amends the Congressional Review Act to allow Congress to consider a joint resolution to disapprove multiple regulations that federal agencies have submitted for congressional review [under the Congressional Review Act]."

The bill applies to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission, a spokesperson for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said back in November when it was originally introduced, which the Obama Administration threatened to veto.

Almost four dozen groups pushed back on the bill in a letter to congressional leaders. 

“The so-called ‘Midnight Rules Relief Act’ neither deals with midnight rules, nor does it provide relief to the American public," said Chris Lewis, VP at Public Knowledge. "Instead, this bill takes the expedited powers of the CRA and applies them to regulations that may have been voted over a year prior to Congressional action.

“These are not midnight rules. Many of these sorts of regulations have undergone months if not years of research, notice, and comment at expert agencies," said Lewis. "Congress delegates regulatory power to the agencies for a reason: to protect Americans in a careful and judicious way. Bundling multiple regulations from multiple agencies into a broad repeal is not careful governance. It is a blunt instrument used to fulfill an ideological opposition to regulatory action."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.