Watching the bumbling circus that is the Trump White House means watching a master class in malevolent ineptitude. But below the bumbling circus, real and really terrifying policy is getting made. In Congress right now, that malevolence is focused and calculatingly efficient where Republicans are salting the earth — almost literally.
Congress has already stripped away rules that block polluters from dumping coal waste into drinking water. They’ve killed a provision that requires those same multinational energy corporations to disclose bribes to foreign governments. They’re torching regulations that restrict gun access to people with debilitating mental illnesses. Congress is doing this right now. And they’re doing it all with little to no debate and with a simple majority vote in Congress. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA)
Republican lawmakers are using a little-known, but staggeringly destructive tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to mow down rules and regulations put in place by the Obama Administration. Under the CRA any rule released from June of 2016 onward — close to 60 so far — can be summarily voted down with a simple majority and the President’s signature. With Trump’s signature this week, the rules requiring transparency in payment to foreign governments vanished. About a dozen others are already chugging through Congress.
But, it gets worse. A Congressional Review Act provision makes these moves even more structurally damaging than a simple rollback of rules. It makes the reversal permanent by stipulating that any successful CRA repeal prevents agencies from promulgating rules that are “substantially similar.” That means that when Trump signs the bill repealing rules allowing seriously mentally ill people from obtaining guns, the government would be barred from putting forth any rule in the future to keep the mentally unstable from purchasing an assault weapon.
So how do we stop this? Even if Democrats vote as a block and are able to hoist one or two Republicans with a conscience over the party line, the simple majority rules make it difficult to defeat without a sea change. Our best weapon here is sunlight.
These aren’t populist reforms. These aren’t even fake populist reforms. Like freeing coal companies to dump toxic waste in streams or stripping consumer protections from pre-paid cards, there’s no groundswell of popular calls for more guns in the hands of people with grave mental illnesses.
This is nothing more than a basket of gleeful, surgical giveaways to big dollar Republican donors. We need to expose, at every opportunity, that we’re watching. We need to make it clear that we will remember this in 2018 and 2020.
It starts now. As lawmakers spend this week at home, in recess, people from across the country are packing town halls, offices and events to make their voices heard. Raise your voice this week as well. You can find an event near you, or organize one, by going to the Resistance Recess webpage. We won’t let Congress take away our health care, our clean water or our basic rights.