Law & Order

Federal Lawmakers Pursue Regulatory Reforms

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The U.S. Congress and Trump administration are pursuing a number of separate and overlapping initiatives to change the way federal agencies make and review regulations. To follow is a brief summary:

  • Executive Orders: In January, President Trump directed all government agencies to cut two existing regulations for each new regulation proposed and freeze issuance of any new regulations pending review. The freeze does not apply to emergency situations or other urgent circumstances. Regulations that are in progress but have not yet taken effect are also frozen for 60 days pending review of fact, law and policy. In February, President Trump directed federal agencies to establish task forces to review existing rules and identify outdated, unnecessary or ineffective rules that impact job creation or impose costs that exceed benefits. Normal procedures would still apply if seeking to eliminate existing rules, namely issuance of a proposed and final rule subject to public comment and court review.
  • Legislation: The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed several bills that are now awaiting Senate consideration. The “Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act" would require congressional approval of regulations before they can take effect. The “Regulatory Accountability Act” would require federal agencies to identify the objective of a proposed rule and choose the lowest-cost alternative. The “Searching for and Cutting Regulations That Are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act” would set up a five-year Congressional commission to review rules ripe for repeal. The “Regulatory Integrity Act” would require federal agencies to post an online record of rules and their status. Another bill would allow Congress to have joint oversight of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews rules proposed by the federal agencies within the White House Office of Management and Budget. It is unclear whether the U.S. Senate will be able to pass these bills since a 60-vote super-majority will likely be required. 

Under an existing law called the “Congressional Review Act,” Congress also has the authority to repeal rules already issued within the last 60 legislative days. The rule can be overturned by a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate and Presidential signature. Members of Congress are considering this approach for several rules issued before President Trump took office. 

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at