The Congressional Review Act


Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA, codified at 5 USC Chapter 8), Congress can act to overturn certain regulations promulgated by an executive agency (such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Department of State, etc.), by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. If signed by the President, a CRA joint resolution would nullify the final rule. Congress can use the CRA only to invalidate an agency final rule in its entirety; the CRA cannot be used to modify or restructure a final rule. The CRA requires agencies to report all rules to Congress, which then has 60 legislative days to disapprove a rule.

For helpful background on the Congressional Review Act, see the November 17, 2016 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, The Congressional Review Act: Frequently Asked Questions. That report describes two primary effects of enactment of a CRA joint resolution disapproving a rule:

  1. First, a rule with a future effective date would not take effect. A rule that has already taken effect will be taken off-line, and "treated as though such rule had never taken effect."
  2. Second, the agency may not reissue the rule in "substantially the same form" or issue a "new rule that is substantially the same" as the disapproved rule, "unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule."

Since the CRA was enacted in 1996, only one agency final rule has been overturned under the Act (a November 2000, Clinton administration rule on ergonomics standards was overturned on March 20, 2001, under the George W. Bush administration). The House of Representatives has already initiated a number of joint resolutions regarding financial and environmental regulations that had been promulgated under the Obama administration. On February 1, 2017, the White House announced its intention to sign those resolutions if they are passed by both the House and Senate. For additional information which Obama administration rules might be susceptible to overturn through the CRA, see: