If Biden wins, Trump’s climate and health care deregulation agenda could crumble

Cutting workplace safety inspections. Allowing subpar health insurance plans to be sold to Americans. Permitting tractor-trailer drivers to blow past previous driver-fatigue limits. Waging war on birth control.

These deregulatory actions and others taken by President Donald Trump’s administration have adversely impacted the health and safety of Americans, according to System Failure, an investigative series produced by the Center for Public Integrity and Vox.

But Trump’s actions may not stick. If former Vice President Joe Biden wins the November 3 election, he’ll have a few tools at his disposal to undo some of Trump’s regulatory maneuvers.

And if Democrats take control of both houses of Congress, they’ll be able to quickly wipe out regulations pushed through in the last 60 legislative days of Trump’s term, thanks to the Congressional Review Act, part of the Contract With America that Newt Gingrich and House Republicans campaigned on in 1994.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks outside during a campaign stop on September 30, 2020, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

It won’t be clear until mid-January when the 60-day period began — because it all depends on how many days Congress meets between now and January 3, when its current term ends — but experts predict it started sometime during the summer.

Since July 1, for example, a Public Integrity analysis shows more than 1,000 regulatory changes have been published in the Federal Register, though only about 100 of them have risen to the level of being reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is charged with sifting out “significant” regulations. The changes that could be subject to the Congressional Review Act include one that weakens methane emissions standards and one that opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Trump and Republicans in Congress actually set in motion a number of rollbacks themselves when they took office, said Bethany Davis Noll, litigation director for the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law.

The Trump administration, more than any other in the US history, aggressively pursued the rollback of federal regulations, particularly the ones put in place by President Barack Obama — including a rule meant to prevent people with mental health issues from buying guns and a regulation aimed at keeping coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams.

Republicans used the Congressional Review Act to undo at least 14 of the Obama administration’s rules. Before Trump took office, the law had only been used once.

Biden has already said that if he wins, he plans to roll back more than 100 Trump administration public health and environmental regulations, including his reversal of protections for transgender people. We asked Davis Noll to explain how Biden will execute these rollbacks if he takes the election. This interview has been edited for…

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