Brian Beutler reports on an expected increase in the Congressional Review Act in the next Congress. Lisa Murkowski actually used the CRA for a “resolution of disapproval” of EPA regulations on greenhouse gases earlier this year, but could not get 51 votes. That would have been sufficient, however, as resolutions of disapproval cannot be filibustered.
House Republicans will have carte blanche next year, and will be able to pass as many of these “resolutions of disapproval” as they want. The key is that a small minority in the Senate can force votes on them as well, and they require only simple-majority support to pass. If they can find four conservative Democrats to vote with them on these resolutions, they can force Obama to serially veto politically potent measures to block unpopular regulations, and create a chilling effect on the federal agencies charged with writing them.
“I think that’s one of many tactics that will be used,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told me in an interview on the last day of the 111th Congress.
I’m wondering what the strategy is here. The President, who seems to cherish executive power and has already signaled that he’d increase such powers to push through his agenda for the next two years, can veto any resolution of disapproval. Democrats may not want to have to filter a bunch of veto bait to his desk, but there’s no reason this should have a “chilling effect” on federal agencies, who would then presumably go out of their way to write GOP-friendly regulations.
It seems that the far more plausible way for the GOP to go is the de-funding route. However, one can envision a link between the two. Agencies would, in this reading, not want to draw attention to themselves in their rule-writing, so vindictive Republican appropriators don’t demand cuts to their budgets. Where the resolution for disapproval fits within that is unclear, but it perhaps sends a public signal that Congress is displeased and will take that out on funding.
Of course, the President can veto appropriations bills, too. So there’s nothing really to this Republican effort to rewrite the rulebook at federal agencies, unless the executive allows it to happen.
What this really shows is that the filibuster is essentially a dead procedural instrument walking. Democrats want to rein in its abuse, and Republicans want to use alternative legislative means that avoid a filibuster. It’s a matter of time before one side or the other bites the bullet and does away with it.