Indiana joins amicus brief defending Congressional Review Act

July 6, 2017

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has added his name to a list of 14 state attorneys general voicing their support for the Congressional Review Act, saying the act protects the sovereignty of the states and provides them with a mechanism for relief from federal agency overreach.

Hill announced Thursday he has joined an amicus brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, where the case of Center for Biological Diversity v. Ryan Zinke and Department of the Interior, 3:17-cv-00091, is pending. The brief urges the federal court to dismiss a complaint brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, which is challenging the act’s constitutionality, and instead find the act “is a tool that allows states to work with Congress to stop unlawful regulation.”

In the amicus brief, the attorneys general argue the CRA – which allows both houses of Congress to pass joint resolutions overturning federal agency regulations, subject to the approval of the president – is a lawful execution of the legislative branch’s constitutional authority to set its own rules of procedure.  Further, the attorneys general say the CRA helps protect the states against harmful federal overreach through implementation of agency rules.

“Many federal rules impose significant harms on the States, and often do so illegally,” the amicus brief says. “The CRA provides an efficient procedure that Congress can use to stop this federal overreach, quickly blocking regulations without requiring States to engage in costly and time-consuming litigation.”

The amicus brief pointed to a list of six federal rules recently overturned through the CRA, including the Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, which “imposed onerous requirements on coal mines near streams,” and the Social Security Administration’s rule banning gun possession by citizens who need help managing their finances.

“In all, the CRA is a lawful procedural tool, which, as recent experience has demonstrated, allows Congress to expeditiously eliminate illegal and/or harmful rules, while working with the States,” they wrote.

In a recent interview with Indiana Lawyer, Hill said attorneys general have the “power and authority…to work on state sovereignty and to recognize the role of state government and the role of federal government and where the two intersect.” Similarly, before he left office last winter, former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller told the Indiana Lawyer many of the federal lawsuits he either brought or joined that challenged federal regulation were not policy challenges, but rather were questions of the scope of the enumerated powers of the executive branch.

In addition to Hill, 14 other attorneys general joined the brief, those in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.


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