Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa





Q&A: Government Overreach

Jun 01, 2017

With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q: What is the Congressional Review Act?

A: Signed into law by President Clinton more than two decades ago, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) is serving as a game changer to help restore proper checks and balances of government, specifically for Congress to reclaim its constitutional authority to write the laws. For decades, the legislative branch has given federal agencies broad latitude and leeway to administer public policy that has resulted in sweeping executive overreach. Over the years, federal rulemaking has eroded legislative authority, creating a disconnect between congressional intent and diminishing accountability in our system of self-government. Elected representatives can be held to account at the ballot box; unelected bureaucrats cannot. The good news is that the CRA empowers the legislative branch with a key oversight tool to curb an ambitious regulatory state steered by ideology instead of public consensus. It gives Congress 60 legislative days to review federal regulations, and with a simple majority, repeal costly, burdensome red tape that overrides congressional intent. The 115th Congress has utilized the law 14 times in the first five months of the current session to rein in a flurry of regulations rushed through in the waning months of the previous administration. Many people would be surprised to learn that the crushing regulatory burden on the U.S. economy acts as a stealth tax, costing more than $2 trillion each year.  What’s more, it costs another $70 billion just to implement the regulations. The Congressional Review Act gives Congress the ability to correct regulations written by unelected bureaucrats, thus helping to restore accountability and limited government. Reining in the size and scope of the federal government’s reach into the free market will help foster the entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation and prosperity. Unaccountable regulatory overreach can undermine congressional intent. That’s why I work tirelessly to conduct robust oversight and ride herd on federal agencies during the rule-making process. It takes consistent oversight and tenacity to keep federal agencies in check to implement the law as Congress intended. An example of executive overreach is the Waters of the United States (WOTUS). The Obama administration twisted the Clean Water Act as a means to an end. It attempted to cast a sweeping regulatory net over nearly all the property in Iowa. Everyone wants clean water, but do we need a federal bureaucrat regulating a dry stream bed on a farmer’s property? Congress and the courts have put the brakes on this extreme overreach. The bottom line is our system of checks and balances is crucial to hold government accountable to the American people.

The modern regulatory state arguably favors the well-heeled and well-connected who are able to hire legions of lobbyists and lawyers to influence rulemaking to their advantage. Giving too much leash to federal regulators can result in an unaccountable system where the well-connected get their bread buttered and average Americans do not. The good news is that the CRA gives Congress the option to apply the brakes to make sure the people’s business comes first.

Q: How has the 115th Congress used the Congressional Review Act?

A: Congress has taken swift action to stop heavy-handed regulations that were rushed through with scant regard to the taxpaying public and the loss of freedoms for individual citizens, from Second Amendment rights to the productivity and prosperity of the free marketplace. To be clear, not all regulations are bad, especially when it comes to securing the health and well-being of Americans and strengthening national security. However, as James Madison wrote in Federalist paper 62: “Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few, not for the many.” With the 14 CRA roll-backs and other regulatory relief measures enacted so far, Congress is working to ensure the government is working “of, by and for the people.” The estimated regulatory cost-savings will reach $67 billion and reduce burdensome paperwork by 56 million hours. That’s time and money restored to the small business owners, entrepreneurs and wage earners who work hard to pay their bills, grow a business and save for retirement. Specifically, Congress stripped federal rules that would damage efforts to restore local control in the classroom; repealed regulations that would ham-string tens of thousands of contractors seeking to do business with the federal government with mountains of paperwork; stopped rules that would harm online privacy protections for American consumers; and, canceled new limits on the ability of states to expand drug testing for unemployment benefits. Using tools like the Congressional Review Act, Congress will continue working to right size the federal government so that it’s not eroding the powers and liberties the Constitution left to the states and to the American people.