Working to restore Constitutional Order

Published 3:25 am Saturday, February 4, 2017

By Rep. Martha Roby

For years, I’ve spoken out about the need to return this country to Constitutional order and rein in the power of bureaucratic federal agencies. Thankfully, this past week saw two important developments that together mark a real turning point in pursuit of that goal.

First, President Donald Trump announced his decision to nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Gorsuch is a fine jurist who will make an excellent addition to the court for many reasons, but the one my fellow conservatives are particularly encouraged by is his reputation as a Constitutional originalist who understands how out of balance the separation of powers has become. He has written powerful critiques of the “Chevron deference,” a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to the bureaucratic overreach we see in our government today.

For some time, we’ve witnessed an erosion of the separation of powers wherein federal agencies go far beyond their appropriate authority to implement aggressive, expensive, burdensome rules and regulations. It is likely the Court could revisit this issue, and Judge Gorsuch’s influence and vote as a Supreme Court justice would be crucial.

In nominating Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, President Trump has taken an important step to steer this country back to Constitutional order, and I applaud him for it.

Second, Congress began the process of striking rules and regulations left over from the Obama Administration. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has 60 legislative days to pass a joint resolution disapproving any rule or regulation issued by a federal agency. As you may know, agencies pushed a load of last-minute regulations at the very end of President Obama’s term. With that 60-day window still open, last week the House passed resolutions to strike a number of unnecessary, big-government regulations.

Working to disapprove these last-minute regulations is necessary, but that could be just the beginning of our efforts to roll back the burdensome regulatory environment put in place by the Obama Administration. Here’s how: when President Obama famously announced he would use his “pen and phone” to circumvent Congress and push his regulatory agenda, it turns out the Administration officials made a critical error in the process.

Many rules and regulations implemented during the Obama era were never officially submitted to Congress as required by law, meaning the 60-day period Congress has to review and disapprove policies never began. Legal experts are looking into how Congress, the White House, and agency leaders can now coordinate to start reviewing and disapproving regulations one by one per the Congressional Review Act.

That would be a tremendous opportunity to do away with some bad, overreaching regulations that created serious burdens for farmers, small businesses, and families. Ironically, the Obama Administration’s decision to ignore the legal, Constitutional process for implementing regulations may have left these regulations particularly vulnerable to be stricken.

Our founders set up a system of checks and balances to ensure that the government derives its power from the people – not the other way around. I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for this President and this Congress to work alongside the Supreme Court to restore Constitutional order in our government.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.