Release: Senate, House Leaders Introduce Bill To Restore Regulatory Accountability Through Judicial Review

Legislation to restore accountability to the regulatory process was introduced by a coalition of lawmakers eager to ensure proper judicial review. The bill, called the “Separation of Powers Restoration Act” would empower the courts, not agencies, to interpret all questions of law, including both statutes and regulations.

The Senate bill was introduced by Senators Hatch (UT), Grassley (IA), Lee (UT), Lankford (OK), Flake (AZ), Inhofe (OK), Tillis (NC), Cruz (TX), Cornyn (R-TX), Sasse (NE), and Sullivan (AK). 

The House bill was introduced by Representatives Ratcliffe (TX), Goodlatte (VA), Marino (PA), Chaffetz (UT), Buck (CO), Yoho (FL), S. King (IA), Bryne (AL), Babin (TX), M. Brooks (AL), Brat (VA), Love (UT), Salmon (AZ), Hensarling (TX), Rouzer (NC), Bishop (MI), Palmer (AL), Messer (IN), Mulvaney (SC), Labrador (ID), Trott (MI), Mullin (OK), Sensenbrenner (WI), Schweikert (AZ), DeSantis (FL), Loudermilk (GA), Issa (CA), Westerman (AR), Burgess (TX), Culberson (TX), Lummis (WY), Walker (NC), Olson (TX), J. Smith (MO), Kelly (PA), Renacci (OH), Gosar (AZ), McMorris Rodgers (WA), LaMalfa (CA), D. Collins (GA), Graves (GA), Franks (AZ), Farenthold (TX), Griffith (VA), L. Smith (TX), and Chabot (OH).

“The federal regulatory process is broken. Washington bureaucrats impose expensive and often unnecessary rules that strain family budgets and impede our ability to create jobs,” Senator Hatch said. “In this environment, the courts stand as the only truly independent check on out-of-control regulators, but judicial deference to the agencies undercuts the courts’ ability to hold the government accountable to the law. Our bill restores accountability to the regulatory process by ensuring that the courts say what the law is, not what the agencies wish the law would be.” 

“Regulators have taken advantage of the courts’ deference under Chevron to shoehorn the law into their own political agenda, expanding their authority well beyond congressional intent. But the Constitution’s separation of powers makes clear that it is the responsibility of the courts – not the bureaucracy – to interpret the law. And they should do so independently.  This bill reasserts the clear lines between the courts’ role in interpreting the law, and the Executive Branch’s role in enforcing the law.  By doing so, it takes a strong step toward reining in the regulators,” Chairman Grassley said.

“In practice Chevron deference has become a direct threat to the rule of law and the moral underpinnings of America’s constitutional order,” Senator Lee said. “The Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016 will restore that balance by bringing back traditional judicial review of administrative actions.”    

“This bill addresses the core problem of executive agencies inventing new law on the American people rather than applying existing law from the American people,” said Senator Lankford. “Deference to the executive branch creates an imbalance in our constitutional system’s balance of powers, favoring centralized executive power over the legislative and judicial powers. The result is that the vast majority of laws burdening everyday Americans come not from politically accountable officials in Congress, but from unelected bureaucrats in federal agencies. Through several hearings before my Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee, it has become apparent that the Chevron and Auer doctrines harm everyday Americans. This is not how the Founders intended for government to work. To restore Congress’ and the courts’ role in our constitutional system, we need the Separation of Powers Restoration Act to ensure that agencies don’t get a blank check to make and interpret law.”

“This bill will help restore the proper balance of power in our constitutional system,”said Senator Flake. “In today’s world of vast executive agencies it is important for courts to provide serious review of actions taken by these agencies and that is exactly what this legislation will do.”

“At the core of our unique system of government are three equal branches – the legislative, executive, and judiciary,” said Senator Inhofe. “However, under the Obama administration, executive branch overreach has upset that balance.  The Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly been among the worst offenders.  The American people can no longer afford EPA’s costly and lawless regulatory actions premised on the notion of agency deference.  This ‘just trust us’ mentality is not enough.   This bill is an important step to restore the necessary balance among the branches and protect the American people from excessive executive overreach.” 

“One of the biggest challenges facing our nation is a large and cumbersome regulatory environment that negatively affects hardworking American families and business, and impedes our nation’s economic growth and potential,” said Senator Tillis. “After eight years of unprecedented executive bureaucratic overreach, this legislation takes necessary steps to hold unelected bureaucrats and regulators accountable by restoring the proper separation of powers to the legislative and judicial branches.”

“At a time when runaway executive agencies are more unwieldy than ever, empowered by a lawless president, Congress must act to reassert and restore its appropriate place as a coequal branch of government,” said Senator Cruz. “It is encouraging to see members in both houses working together to stop unelected bureaucrats, who are wreaking havoc on our nation’s economy as well as the Constitution. This bill reverses the trend of enabling bureaucracy at the expense of Congress and the courts.” 

Washington’s unelected bureaucracy is not a super-legislature but too often it acts like a fourth branch of government,” said Senator Sasse. “This bill takes an important step to restore the Constitution’s system of three separate branches of government with specifically defined duties on behalf of the American people.” 

When courts rely on the Chevron doctrine, congressional authority is undermined,” said Senator Sullivan. “As the power of the regulation nation grows, the rule of law is increasingly ignored. It’s time for Congress to act. This simple change in the law will reinforce the constitutionally mandated division of authority between the three branches of government.”

“The endless stream of rules and regulations being rolled out by federal agencies has real consequences for real people all across the country,” said Congressman Ratcliffe. “Unelected federal bureaucrats are not accountable to the American people and can’t be voted out of office; yet, they wield immense power to impose regulations that have the force of law. I’m grateful to be a part of the solution today as we introduce this important legislation to rein in an administrative state that has been allowed to wield immense lawmaking power outside of the will of the Constitution.”
“Today’s federal administrative state is an institution unforeseen by the Framers of our Constitution, that is rapidly mushrooming out of control,” said Chairman Goodlatte. “This overgrown bureaucracy is tipping our system of checks and balances away from the legislative and judicial branches, and towards a stronger, emboldened, and overreaching executive. The precedent set by Chevron has been a catalyst for a runaway administrative state, and we are undertaking a strong, bicameral effort to bring balance back to our federal government.” 

“I am grateful to my colleagues in the House and Senate for their efforts on this bill,”said Subcommittee Chairman Marino. “Our Founders envisioned three separate but equal branches of government.  But for too long, we in Congress have skirted our duties by drafting weak legislation, that empowers rather than constrains the ever growing administrative state.  The Supreme Court’s Chevron decision only worsened this problem, as the Court abdicated its own role as the ultimate judge of the law.  Today’s bill curtails the overreach of executive agencies at the source of their power, the Administrative Procedure Act, and begins the important steps of returning control of the government to the people, through Congress.”

“Congress has largely outsourced its Article I, Section I legislative powers to the Executive, empowering bureaucrats while relegating itself to the legislative sidelines,” said Congressman Hensarling. “Exacerbating this congressional self-enfeeblement is a legal doctrine established by the Supreme Court known as Chevron Deference.  This is the foundation of the so-called Fourth Branch of government, in which federal agencies have become legislator, prosecutor, judge, and jury.  It’s past time for Congress to take back its constitutional authority. That is why Senator Lee and I started the Article I Project (A1P). The ‘Separation of Powers Act’ is a small but vital first step towards fulfilling the mission of A1P.”