Former President Donald Trump rolled back federal regulations more than any other president in U.S. history — in some cases to the detriment of Americans’ health and safety, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and Vox.
But President Joe Biden has already set the stage for undoing Trump’s changes, and Congress can quickly wipe out Trump’s deregulations pushed through in the last 60 legislative days of the previous Congress.
On his first day, Biden “set a new course for the future,” said Bridget Dooling, research professor with the GW Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University. “By taking these steps on his first day in office, it signals how important it is to get the regulatory machine operating in sync with the president’s vision.”
In many cases, a president can’t unilaterally undo regulatory or deregulatory actions, but he can direct federal agencies to begin the process. Biden has signed executive orders on climate, racial equity and immigration, which directed various agencies to begin taking steps to undo Trump’s regulatory rollbacks, said Bethany Davis Noll, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law.
If the Biden administration chooses to aggressively reinstate regulations, the process, ironically, may have been made easier by Trump and Republicans in Congress, said Davis Noll, who ran a tracker of Trump’s deregulation efforts and will likely track Biden’s regulatory actions.)
Republicans used the Congressional Review Act to undo at least 14 of President Barack Obama’s rules. Before Trump took office, the law had only been used once. Republicans, for example, removed a rule that prevented people with mental health issues from buying guns and a regulation aimed at keeping coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams.
Now Democrats can use the Congressional Review Act to overturn deregulatory rules that Trump pushed through in the last 60 legislative days of the previous Congress.
Spokespeople for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did not respond to requests for comment about whether Democrats will invoke the Congressional Review Act. Senior aides have said they plan to use the law, according to NBC News.
One thing working in Democrats’ favor: Trump’s agencies oftentimes didn’t include complex legal arguments or robust data analysis to defend their deregulatory actions, so it will be relatively easy for the Biden administration to reinstate Obama’s regulations, Davis Noll said.
“If the Trump-era [deregulatory] rule didn’t have a big record to support it that showed why the rule was a good idea,” Davis Noll said, “then all Biden has to do is adopt a new policy and change course.”
Help support this work
Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.