If many of President Donald Trump’s proposals become law, regular Americans — including many diehard Trump supporters — have a great deal to lose.
In the past month, this has been illustrated most clearly through Trump’s health care plan and his proposed budget, both of which would harm regular Americans to pay back the Republicans’ benefactors and corporate cronies.
But it is also true of the newly overused Congressional Review Act, or CRA, resolutions of disapproval, which drew national attention last month when Congress voted to repeal broadband privacy protections.
CRA resolutions stem from an antiquated law created by Newt Gingrich and are being abused to attempt to permanently wipe out the safeguards that protect Americans from corporate privateers, pickpockets, polluters and predators. While Trump’s widely critiqued health care and budget proposals may never become reality, 11 CRA resolutions have already been signed into law, and two more may be signed soon.
In addition to the broadband privacy safeguards, the protections we just lost due to these rollbacks would have stopped big oil companies from bribing governments at the expense of nearby communities, protected our streams from mining companies intent on dumping toxic chemicals into our irrigation and drinking water, kept firearms out of the hands of individuals with severe mental health disabilities, increased local input into federal land use planning decisions, protected workers employed by abusive and dishonest federal contractors, helped schools meet their obligations to disadvantaged students, helped better prepare teachers for the challenges of the classroom, set reasonable limits on who may be drug tested as a condition of receiving unemployment benefits, required employers to keep accurate records of workplace injuries and illnesses, and protected Alaskan wildlife.
Remarkably, more than 80 days into his administration, these resolutions are the only legislation of consequence that President Trump has signed. The GOP’s corporate donors want to kill these and other protections, and they spent more than $1 billion to get their way in Congress, a recent Public Citizen report showed.
On most other fronts, significant legislative, legal and technical obstacles stand in the way of this predatory and plutocratic agenda. But the CRA’s expedited process for repeal makes it easy for Republicans to pay back their corporate cronies. Protections that took years of resource-intensive analysis, comment and review are being wiped out in a matter of days or even hours.
The CRA allows Congress — by majority vote in both chambers, with limited debate and no possibility of a filibuster — to wipe out rules issued in the final six months of the previous administration. It also blocks agencies from issuing rules that are “substantially similar” without express authorization from Congress, meaning that protections eliminated using the CRA will be extremely difficult to restore.
We hope that Republicans in Congress can be persuaded to protect the public and oppose these resolutions. Congressional Republicans must understand that by doing the bidding of their corporate donors and voting to repeal key protections, they will inflict significant pain on their own constituents. In many cases, Trump’s strongest supporters will be among those with the most to lose.
Take the recently repealed stream protection rule as an example. When mining companies dump pollutants into nearby streams, it isn’t coastal Democrats whose crops won’t grow, whose drinking water will be poisoned and whose children will end up in the hospital. It’s the rural working-class voters who backed Trump and live close to these drill sites whose families will suffer the most.
Or consider the land use planning rule. It’s Trump’s rural supporters living near federal lands whose voices will be excluded from the planning process, not the voices of Hillary Clinton-supporting urban dwellers. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to look out for regular workers, but Republicans have endangered their lives and their workplaces by targeting the fair pay and safe workplaces executive order and the worker health and safety record-keeping rule.
Repealing public protections using the CRA is a fundamental betrayal of candidate Trump’s promises to drain the swamp, rein in Wall Street and defend the middle class. Even worse, it’s an escalation of the corrupt insider-dealing he campaigned against.
Trump, congressional Republicans and their corporate cronies may not have been able to unite behind a federal budget or a plan to repeal Obamacare. But when it comes to dismantling public protections, rigging the rules for their own personal benefit and preying on American workers, consumers and families, they know how to work together. It’s regular Americans who are paying the price.
Gilbert is the vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen.