The Volokh Conspiracy

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Did the Assault on the Capitol Derail Last-Minute Trump Regulations?

Rioters who ransacked a Senate office may have prevented a few Trump policies from taking effect.


Kelsey Brugger of E&E News reports that three Trump Administration regulatory actions may have been derailed by the January 6 assault on the Capitol building. According to Brugger's story, rioters ransacked the Senate offices, causing an extra-long delay before the hard-copy submissions of three rules could be submitted. Under the Congressional Review Act, major rules must be submitted to the Senate before they may take effect. In this case, the resulting delays appear to have prevented the rules from taking effect prior to January 20, meaning the rules would have been suspended by the Biden Administration before they became operative.

From Brugger's story:

To finalize a rule, agencies must send the regulation to both the Office of the Federal Register and to Congress. Whichever happens later prompts the rule to be deemed "received."

On Jan. 6, EPA sent three regulations to the Senate parliamentarian. One was the first-ever greenhouse gas emissions rule for airplanes, which environmentalists dismissed as useless.

Another included unchanged National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone, an air pollutant experts say is among the most dangerous in the United States today. EPA also sent an action affecting the Denver area.

After receiving the rules, the parliamentarian had to route them to send them to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee — a process that can take several days.

But on Jan. 6, the mob ransacked the office. File cabinets were toppled over, and documents were strewn across the floor. And as a result, sources in and outside Capitol Hill say, the rules may have taken longer to make it to committee.

Records show that the EPA rules finally made it to EPW on Jan. 22. That's after President Biden took office. The White House's new chief of staff, Ron Klain, had by then issued a memo to freeze all Trump rules that had not gone into effect.