Congressional Republicans anxious to show voters they can get something done are hailing their reversal of more than a dozen Obama-era regulations on guns, the internet and the environment.
Over a few months, lawmakers used an obscure legislative rule to ram through changes that will have far-reaching implications for the coal industry, broadband customers, hunters and women seeking healthcare at Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
The deadline for scuttling the rules that Democrat Obama imposed during his final months in office was last Thursday. The 1996 Congressional Review Act had given Republicans the power to make the changes with a simple majority, within a set time.
While the rest of Washington focused on the furore over President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, Republicans were celebrating their effort to reverse the rules, arguing that it would boost the economy and make it easier for businesses to operate.
“I am almost speechless when I think about the success,” said Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican-Oklahoma.
Senators pointed out that Congress had only once before used the legislative tools stemming from the Congressional Review Act to quash a regulation — until this year. In all, the GOP was able to reverse 14 regulations that had or will get Trump's signature.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader in the Senate, argued that overturning rules passed at the end of the Obama administration hardly constituted an agenda.
“The fact that they are bragging about these highlights how little else they have accomplished legislatively,” Schumer said.
Republicans have a long way to go in their efforts to repeal and replace the health care law, cut taxes and boost infrastructure spending, all Trump priorities. Still, the GOP made clear soon after election victories in November that one of the first orders of business would be to go after Obama administration rules.
The effort has had strong backing from business groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and prominent anti-abortion groups — all key constituencies that generally back Republican candidates. The Chamber endorsed eight of the 14 repeal resolutions that Congress passed. One still awaits the president's signature before it can become law.
Republicans reversed Obama rules that enhanced protections for waterways near coal mines, required contractors to disclose violation of 14 federal labour laws for the previous three years when bidding on contracts and imposed tight restrictions on what broadband companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast could do with their customers' personal data.
Neil Bradley, a senior vice president at the Chamber, said that when it comes to slow economic growth, it's difficult to say, “This regulation is the culprit, but collectively, that's what happens.”
“Together, they affected a pretty broad base of the business community,” Bradley said.
Democrats overwhelmingly voted against most of the regulatory repeals. Republicans generally supported them, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote to allow states to deny federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. That reversed a rule Obama issued in his last weeks in office.
While many of the actions were designed to help businesses, others addressed social issues, including the repeal of a regulation designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people. The NRA as well as advocacy groups for the disabled and the ACLU weighed in. They said it was discriminatory for the Social Security Administration to forward the names of certain beneficiaries to the instant background check system based on a mental disability and having a third party manage their benefits.
Democrats and environmentalists scored one victory last week.
Senate Republicans failed to overturn a rule that would have forced energy companies to capture more of the methane that's burned off or “flared” at drilling sites. Senator John McCain, Republican-Arizona, said he considered the rule onerous but undoing it would have prevented the Bureau of Land Management from issuing a similar rule in the future.
McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator Susan Collins of Maine joined Democrats on the vote.
GOP leaders opted not to bring a couple dozen other repeal resolutions up for a vote, including one that would have blocked a rule designed to protect funds on prepaid debit cards in case of fraud and unauthorised use.
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
1/11 Paul Manafort
Mr Manafort is a Republican strategist and former Trump campaign manager. He resigned from that post over questions about his extensive lobbying overseas, including in Ukraine where he represented pro-Russian interests.
2/11 Mike Flynn
Mr Flynn was named as Trump's national security adviser but was forced to resign from his post for inappropriate communication with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. He had misrepresented a conversation he had with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, telling him wrongly that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian.
3/11 Sergey Kislyak
Mr Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, is at the centre of the web said to connect President Donald Trump's campaign with Russia.
4/11 Roger Stone
Mr Stone is a former Trump adviser who worked on the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Mr Stone claimed repeatedly in the final months of the campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew the group was going to dump damaging documents to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - which did happen. Mr Stone also had contacts with the hacker Guccier 2.0 on Twitter, who claimed to have hacked the DNC and is linked to Russian intelligence services.
5/11 Jeff Sessions
The US attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after it was learned that he had lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
6/11 Carter Page
Mr Page is a former advisor to the Trump campaign and has a background working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Page met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mr Page had invested in oil companies connected to Russia and had admitted that US Russia sanctions had hurt his bottom line.
7/11 Jeffrey "JD" Gorden
Mr Gordon met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republian National Convention to discuss how the US and Russia could work together to combat Islamist extremism should then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election. The meeting came days before a massive leak of DNC emails that has been connected to Russia.
8/11 Jared Kushner
Mr Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a key adviser to the White House. He met with a Russian banker appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December. Mr Kushner has said he did so in his role as an adviser to Mr Trump while the bank says he did so as a private developer. Mr Kushner has also volunteered to testify in the Senate about his role helping to arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
9/11 James Comey
Mr Comey was fired from his post as head of the FBI by President Donald Trump. The timing of Mr Comey's firing raised questions around whether or not the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign may have played a role in the decision.
10/11 Preet Bharara
Mr Bahara refused, alongside 46 other US district attorney's across the country, to resign once President Donald Trump took office after previous assurances from Mr Trump that he would keep his job. Mr Bahara had been heading up several investigations including one into one of President Donald Trump's favorite cable television channels Fox News. Several investigations would lead back to that district, too, including those into Mr Trump's campaign ties to Russia, and Mr Trump's assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped on orders from his predecessor.
11/11 Sally Yates
Ms Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, was running the Justice Department while President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general awaited confirmation. Ms Yates was later fired by Mr Trump from her temporary post over her refusal to implement Mr Trump's first travel ban. She had also warned the White House about potential ties former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Russia after discovering those ties during the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia.
Still, the 14 victories gave Republicans a chance to crow.
“In just a few short months, we have turned a significant corner from how things operated under the Obama administration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican-Kentucky. “Instead of going around Congress to push through regulations, the President is working with us to ease the burden.”
Copyright Associated Press
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