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Trump Should Quickly Rescind Obama’s Drilling Ban

In his enviro-extremism, President Obama is attempting to tie President-elect Trump’s hands by blocking vast swaths of the Arctic Ocean and stretches of the Atlantic from oil and natural-gas drilling. The gambit, announced by the administration on Tuesday, is part of an eleventh-hour wave by which Obama is flooding the regulatory zone: Promulgating so many rules – of the unpopular, hard-left variety that Democrats dare not unveil before Election Days – that he hopes the Trump administration will find it too cumbersome to undo all of them.

The incoming president should not let his predecessor get away with it. Obama’s lawyers apparently believe they’ve found a loophole that could make the anti-drilling ban stick. President Trump, however, will have the power to rescind it, and should do so promptly.

Obama will set an all-time record for pages added to the Federal Register this year. Actually, make that another all-time record, since he will (yet again) be breaking records he has set, and broken, repeatedly over the last eight years. In fact, the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes that on a single day in mid-November, Obama added an unprecedented 572 pages to the Federal Register.

Concededly, counting pages can be an imprecise or even misleading measure of presidential law-making. The Federal Register includes reams of documents besides rules and regulations. Plus, even rules that had the effect of rolling back rules would thicken the rule book. But let’s face it, Washington is rarely in the business of reining in its intrusions. The last eight years have been all about extending them – to the Arctic Ocean and beyond.

Trump will find it easy to cancel rules imposed in the late stages of the incumbent administration. Any rules that have not yet gone into effect can simply be suspended. And rules that have just gone into effect may be undone under the 1996 Congressional Review Act. The CRA empowers Congress, within 60 session-days of a rule’s implementation, to enact a resolution disapproving it. Such a resolution is not subject to Senate filibuster (i.e., it can be passed by a simple majority because the usual requirement of 60 votes to end debate does not apply).

For the most part, the CRA has been an illusory check on executive agencies run wild. A disapproval resolution, like any other congressional act, does not become law unless the president signs it (or unless the president’s veto is overridden). Obviously, a president is not going to sign a resolution that cancels rules promulgated by his own administration in furtherance of his agenda.

Still, the CRA has been successfully invoked once, in 2001. That example mirrors our current transitional circumstances: It happened at the start of the new Bush (43) administration, when Congress voted to revoke a rule implemented toward the end of the Clinton administration.