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TELLER: The Year of the Congressional Review Act

The Congressional Review Act has proven its importance in holding the Biden administration accountable in a divided Congress. 

Conservatives in Congress won their very first legislative victory in March with a CRA resolution overturning a District of Columbia crime bill that would have reduced penalties for violent offenders. Under political pressure for surging crime in the District, President Biden caved and signed the CRA resolution, leaving progressives high and dry without any executive branch cover for voting against common sense.

Created in 1996 through the efforts of then-Rep. David McIntosh, R-Indiana, the CRA was constructed to empower Congress to keep the executive branch and D.C. in check, which the Constitution grants Congress exclusive authority over. 

Rather than the typical 60 votes necessary to advance most policies in the Senate over the potential for a filibuster, CRA resolutions are “privileged measures” requiring only a simple majority. In the current Congress, that has meant that conservatives could hold Biden’s sprawling administrative state in check with the support of only one or two Democrats, and sometimes less than 51 votes. Convince the usual suspects of Democratic senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema or Jon Tester that a Biden policy has gone too far, and the CRA can be used to stop that policy in its tracks.

Conservatives also forced the first veto of the Biden presidency through a CRA resolution opposing a 401(k) rule that put progressive values over economic value for American workers. Advancing American Freedom launched a six-figure ad campaign, concentrated in Arizona and Montana (we had already flipped Manchin with a massive coalition letter effort that included key West Virginia stakeholders). As a result, we were able to protect the retirement accounts of hardworking Americans from progressives’ political games.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed two CRA resolutions, overturning Biden’s overreach on heavy-duty vehicle emissions and his student loan bailout. The heavy-duty vehicle emissions rule would add thousands of dollars to the cost of every truck on the road, driving up already exorbitant transportation costs for consumers. According to the American Truck Dealers, costs could be as much as $42,000 per truck, and the EPA estimates the rule would impose a $55 billion burden on the trucking industry over the rule’s lifetime. The CRA, which already passed in the Senate with the support of Manchin, received support from four House Democrats in battleground districts.

The student loan rule would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, breaking our already broken higher education system. Rather than helping working-class Americans struggling to get by, this rule rewards the professional class and progressives with overly expensive gender studies degrees. 

The rule isn’t just a slap in the face to Americans who chose not to go to college because of the crippling expenses or those who worked hard to pay off their student loan debts — it’s a deeply misguided initiative that will actively encourage more reckless borrowing and stoke the flames of inflation. Even Biden has acknowledged that his authority is doubtful here. It’s clearly part of a corrupt political spoils system aimed at buying votes. While it did not get as many Democratic votes as the heavy-duty vehicle CRA, the student loan CRA passed with bipartisan support in the House and now moves to the Senate, where its fate will be determined.

Advancing American Freedom has been compiling a list of executive overreach called the Biden Accountability Tracker (BAT). The BAT tracks each significant policy decision made, executive action taken, or regulation promulgated by the administration that hurts the American people. This task has produced 171 entries in the past two years, the latest of which would be ripe for CRA action. 

The administration has aggrandized federal power at the expense of accountability, adopting a radical “whole-of-government” approach to nearly every political or policy issue. Defeating this destructive agenda is top of mind as conservatives look to take back control of Congress in 2024. In the meantime, we should use the CRA vigorously to swat down overreach. Let history remember 2023 as the year of the CRA.