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Thursday, 09 February 2017 06:52

Congress Poised to Engage in Harmful Deregulation

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US Capitol west side copy33US Congress (Photo: Martin Falbisoner)

I noted in a January 31 commentary that President Trump signed an executive order that took "two steps backward in public protection regulations." His action requires that executive branch agencies can only create a new regulation by eliminating two existing ones. Many of the regulations that may now be on the chopping block are key protections of civil, human and environmental rights. Furthermore, remember that a new regulation could be pro-corporate, and it might replace two regulations that benefit the public good.

In thinking about regulations in the age of Trump, it is also essential to remember that Congress initiates its own regulations -- and acts of deregulation. Public Citizen, a national advocacy agency for the public good, points out in an email, as one example, that Congress can repeal recently enacted executive branch orders, noting:

As a result of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Americans could lose dozens of important health, safety, pocketbook and environmental protections established during the final six months of the last administration. The CRA allows Congress to strike down recently issued rules -- with limited debate and no possibility of a filibuster -- and blocks agencies from ever again issuing “substantially similar” standards without express authorization from Congress....

Two rules already have been struck down: the stream protection rule and the overseas drilling anti-corruption rule. More are at risk of repeal every week. In practical terms, Congress will have 60 legislative working days – until sometime in May or June – to torpedo rules finalized after June 13, 2016.

In short, that means the Republican-controlled Congress that has made deregulation (with a few pro-corporate exceptions) a priority, and it has nearly half a year to annul many of the important regulations that were put in place during the last six months of the Obama administration. These include ripe targets of right-wing venom, including Public Citizen notes:

Prepaid card protections
Consumer protections against forced arbitration
Broadband privacy protections
Nursing home protections
The methane and natural gas waste rule
Chemical facility safeguards

Congress could also eliminate a requirement that protects students from acquiring tuition loan debt as a result of fraudulent enrollment promises. You might ask, "Who could be against that?" The answer would be for-profit schools -- and very possibly this Congress. The Congressional Research Service compiled a lengthy list of the "major Obama administration rules potentially eligible to be overturned under the Congressional Review Act in the 115th Congress." It includes air pollution and energy conservation standards as two of the specific areas affected.

The Rules at Risk website -- created by a coalition of concerned organizations -- warns of the potential harm that the Congressional Review Act could enable, calling it "a holdover from Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America":

If these protections are eliminated under the CRA, it will be extremely difficult to restore them. In the meantime, the robber barons in the Trump administration, greedy corporations and other bad actors will be free to abuse, exploit and discriminate against regular Americans with impunity, knowing they won’t be held accountable.

This represents a fundamental betrayal of candidate Trump’s promises to drain the swamp, rein in Wall Street and defend the middle class. In many cases, Trump’s own base of supporters are be among those with the most to lose if these public protections are repealed.

Payday lenders, debt collectors, and prepaid credit card companies will be able to scam and rip off the people who put Trump in office. Polluters will be able to dump in their backyards and poison the wells near their homes. Trump’s supporters will pay more out of pocket for home appliances, trucks and electricity bills.

When it comes to the probable elimination of regulations that protect our rights, our health and our environment, Trump and Congress are not draining the swamp. They are filling it to its toxic brim.