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The Congressional Review Act(1) set up a process in which Congress has 60 session days to review and possibly reject agency rules.

First, agencies must submit all new rules to the parliamentarians and leadership in both the House and Senate, in addition to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO then must provide a report to the agency's authorizing committee on each major rule within 15 days of the rule's publication in the Federal Register or its receipt by Congress, whichever is later.

If a Congress member finds a rule objectionable, he/she can introduce a "resolution of disapproval." The resolution is then referred to committees of jurisdiction. In the Senate, if the committee has not reported within 20 calendar days, the resolution can be discharged upon a petition supported by 30 members, and it "shall be placed on the calendar." In the House, there is no such petition provision, and the resolution would be treated like any bill.

The Act prescribes special expedited procedures, which limit debate in the House and ban a Senate filibuster, for consideration of the resolution. Barring congressional action, a major rule(2) goes into effect 60 days after it has been submitted to Congress; a non-major rule goes into effect immediately, though like a major rule, Congress still has 60 session days to repeal it.

If the motion to disapprove passes in both the House and Senate, and is then signed by the president(3), the rule essentially disappears. Even if it has already taken effect, the agency that issued it can no longer enforce the regulation or defend it in court. Furthermore, the agency is banned from pushing a similar version of the rule at a later date.


1. The Congressional Review Act was enacted as a provision within the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, but it should be thought of as a separate act since its purpose and focus are, for the most part, unrelated to SBREFA's other provisions.

2. "Major" is defined as a rule that is estimated to have an annual effect on the economy of more than $100 million.

3. Like a bill, the president can veto the resolution in which case only a congressional override could defeat the rule.

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