Beyond Republicans and the Disapproval of Regulations

The Institutionalization of the Congressional Review Act

March 23, 2021

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Abstract                                                

The Congressional Review Act (CRA), under which the United States Congress deploys expedited procedures to disapprove agency regulations, has long been viewed as a powerful but rarely exploited means of legislative oversight. This article examines legislative action—introductions, cosponsorship, and votes—on resolutions of disapproval by committees, political parties, and congressional majorities. This approach advances understanding of the CRA beyond extant emphasis on Republicans nullifying regulations in concert with co-partisan presidents immediately following transitions from Democratic administrations. A series of statistics and visualizations illustrates that both Republicans and Democrats, as well as committees of jurisdiction, have been pivotal in accounting for the persistence of action on resolutions during the twenty-five years in which the CRA has been in effect. These findings, derived from the complete set of resolutions considered between 1996 and 2020, provide evidence that the CRA has become an institutionalized instrument of oversight of regulatory policymaking.