Guest: Public Citizen's Matt Kent on the Congressional Review Act's closing window; Also: IA, GA Repubs pass vote suppression bills; Palm Beach resident Trump votes by absentee...again...
By Brad Friedman on 3/9/2021, 6:32pm PT  

On today's BradCast: Democrats could roll back dozens of toxic and/or corrupt Trump-era regulations, many of which had, themselves, rolled back previous regulations. And they can do it with a simple, filibuster-proof majority vote in the U.S. Senate. But they must act quickly. So, what's the hold up? [Audio link to full show follows below summary.]

First up today, however, some quick elections news. Donald Trump, who decried absentee voting for everyone but himself while he lived at the White House and voted by mail unlawfully using Mar-a-Lago as his voting address, had previous claimed it was just fine that he voted by absentee, since he was legitimately not in Palm Beach, Florida to cast his vote.  Well, Palm Beach is holding municipal elections today, and guest which current resident of the town has requested an absentee ballot to vote?

Meanwhile, the post-2020 GOP attempt to roll back access to the ballot is gaining speed in state legislatures across the country. The Brennan Center for Justice cites more than 200 such measures proposed in more than 40 states as of mid-February.  One of them, a bill in Iowa that shortens Early Voting days and polling place hours, among other restrictions, was signed into law by the state's Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday.  On Tuesday, civil rights groups filed suit.

Down in Georgia, a massive number of restrictions on voting --- most notably, mail-in voting --- are being quickly passed by both chambers of the state General Assembly.  As in Iowa, it's all being done with party line votes, with furious Democrats voting in opposition. On Monday, the GA state Senate passed a bill that, among other things, ends no-excuse absentee voting for most voters, even as 1.3 million took advantage of the convenient (and, during a pandemic, safer) way to vote in last year's Presidential election. But after Democrats won that election in November and both U.S. Senate runoffs in January, Republicans are now hoping to reverse the no-excuse mail-in voting law they themselves passed with their GOP-majority back in 2005. Shamefully, that is not the only new restriction that Republican state lawmakers are trying to enact in the Peach State, with many of the new restrictions aimed at suppressing minority voters.  And, as in Iowa, despite a lack of evidence of any voter fraud in their elections, Republicans are pretending that these new suppression tactics are necessary to prevent voter fraud.

Many provisions of the restrictive bills being pushed through state legislatures would be blocked by the Democrats' major voting rights bill, H.R.1, the "For the People Act" at the federal level.  The bill has already been passed in the U.S. House (with zero GOP votes), but unless the Senate filibuster rules are reformed --- or Joe Manchin comes to his senses (or both) --- the bill will almost certainly fail to overcome Republican opposition in the upper chamber.

At the same time, however, while Democrats are forced to look forward to protect upcoming elections, there are scores of corrupt, dangerous, Trump-era federal regulations that can now be rolled back with a simple majority vote in both chambers of Congress. No need to get 60 votes in the Senate! But Democrats have to act fast to overturn these Trump rules before the clock runs out on the 60 legislative days since the new Congress began which allow for rolling back a previous Administration's regulatory rules under the Clinton-era Congressional Review Act (CRA).

There is an enormous number of measures that Democrats could reverse immediately, enacted at the last minute by the Trump Administration at dozens of federal agencies such as the EPA, Dept. of Interior, Dept. of Energy, USDA, NOAA, Dept. of Justice, Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Labor, HUD, HHS, the Veterans Administration, DHS and others. But, as Public Citizen has been reporting, the window to repeal parts of "Trump's deregulatory legacy" is quickly closing before an April 4th deadline to introduce simple resolutions for each specific regulatory action they wish to roll back.

We're joined today by MATT KENT, Regulatory Policy Associate at Public Citizen who, with Amit Narang, has been furiously attempting to sound the alarm about all of this (and about the regulations that the Trump Administration screwed up when issuing them, making it even easier for Biden to reverse on his own.)

"Anything completed within 60 legislative days of the end of the preceding Congress --- so, for our purposes, anything the Trump Administration finalized after August 21, 2020 --- anything after that is available to be undone by this Congress," Kent explains. "There's a real opportunity here for the Biden Administration and the Democratic Congress to more or less supercharge their efforts to use the CRA, to really expand the scope of regulations that are available to be removed --- deregulatory action is a better way to put it."

"This is a filibuster buster," he tells me. "This is something you can use to really get around a huge roadblock in the Senate. That's the way it was designed by the Republicans who created the law."

While the non-partisan government watchdog Public Citizen has long opposed the CRA, Kent argues turnabout is fair play. While the law was little used until Trump came to office, Republicans too advantage of it to overturn more than a dozen Obama-era rules. Kent advises it should be used here again, and then "pull up the ladder" to abolish it.

"The sands are moving through the hourglass here," he says, referencing the upcoming CRA deadline before offering some bewildering news: "So far, there have not been any Congressional  Review Act resolutions introduced at all. I am a little surprised that no Democrat has introduced a disapproval resolution."

He predicts "we'll probably see some in the next few weeks, but the pace has definitely been slow." What could possibly explain the hold up? We discuss.

Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with some more news about rollbacks to Trump-era rollbacks, specifically, in this case, at the Dept. of Interior. That good news, as usual in the GNR, is balanced by some decidedly less good news --- on another bankrupt coal company hoping to pass its toxic mess on to the tax-payers, and a sleazy (and so far, successful) effort by the natural gas industry to block any and all changes to city building codes, meant to combat climate change, around the nation...

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