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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oversight of the Congressional Review Act

Morton Rosenberg
Specialist in American Public Law

Madam Chair and Members of the Subcommittee,

I am very pleased to be before you again, this time to discuss a statute, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), that I have closely monitored since its enactment in 1996, over a decade ago. Your commencement of oversight of this important piece of legislation is opportune and perhaps propitious.

As the CRS Report on the decade of experience under the CRA details, we know enough now to conclude that it has not worked well to achieve the objectives of its sponsors: to set in place an effective mechanism to keep Congress informed about the rulemaking activities of federal agencies and to allow for expeditious congressional review, and possible nullification, of particular rules. The House and Senate sponsors of the legislation made clear the fundamental institutional concerns that they were addressing by the Act:

As the number and complexity of federal statutory programs has increased over the last fifty years, Congress has come to depend more and more upon Executive Branch agencies to fill out the details of the programs it enacts. As complex as some statutory schemes passed by Congress are, the implementing regulations are often more complex by several orders of magnitude. As more and more of Congress’ legislative functions have been delegated to federal regulatory agencies, many have complained that Congress has effectively abdicated its constitutional role as the national legislature in allowing federal agencies so much latitude in implementing and interpreting congressional enactments.

In many cases, this criticism is well founded. Our constitutional scheme creates a delicate balance between the appropriate roles of the Congress in enacting laws, and the Executive Branch in implementing those laws. This legislation will help to redress the balance, reclaiming for Congress some of its policymaking authority, without at the same time requiring Congress to become a super regulatory agency.

Date of Report: November 6, 2007
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: T-110607
Price: $29.95

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