Overview of the Congressional Review Act (CRA)
The Congressional Review Act requires agencies to submit final rules—major rules, non-major rules and interim final rules—to Congress and the Government Accountability Office prior to the rules taking effect.
If an agency fails to submit a rule, members of Congress can request the GAO to decide whether an unsubmitted action meets the CRA definition of a rule and therefore must be submitted. If the GAO determines that a rule meets CRA requirements, the Senate publishes the opinion in the Congressional Record. In rare instances, the CRA may also be used to rescind guidance documents, if the GAO determines that they qualify as “rules” under the CRA because they represent “general statements of policy.” (For more, see the agency’s past opinions.)
Any member of Congress can introduce a joint resolution disapproving of an agency’s final rule once it is submitted. A simple majority in both chambers is needed to send the measure to the president’s desk. If the president vetoes the resolution, a two-thirds majority in both chambers would be necessary to override.
Congress generally has 60 days of continuous session from the date a rule is submitted to use the disapproval procedure. (The days include every calendar day, including weekends and holidays, and exclude only days that either chamber is gone for more than three days following an adjournment resolution.) If a rule was not submitted, but the GAO determines it meets CRA requirements, the Senate may consider the date the opinion was published in the Congressional Record as the beginning of the review period.
If a final rule is submitted to Congress when the adjournment of the session prevents either chamber from having a full 60-day review period, a new period starts the next year. That “lookback” mechanism, under Section 801(d) of the CRA, states that if a rule is submitted to Congress within 60 session (Senate) or legislative (House) days before sine die adjournment in either chamber, a new review period opens for the incoming session of Congress.
The new session then operates as though the rule had been submitted to Congress and the Federal Register on the 15th working day of the incoming Congress, at which point a new 60-day review period opens. The Congressional Research Service has estimated that agency rules submitted to Congress after July 29, 2022, can be subject to CRA review periods during the 118th Congress.
While the House does not have an expedited procedure for a resolution’s consideration, the Senate has “fast track” provisions that prevent a CRA joint-disapproval resolution from being filibustered if it meets certain criteria.
If a resolution of disapproval is signed into law or Congress overrides a presidential veto, the rule in question immediately is prohibited from either going into effect or continuing in effect, and “shall be treated as though the rule had never taken effect.”
Additionally, the agency that promulgated the rule is prohibited from “reissuing” the same regulation in the future or developing a regulation that is “substantially” similar, unless the new, or revised, regulation is “specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.” The CRA neither defines what would constitute a rule that is “substantially the same” as a nullified rule nor indicates who would make such a determination. Section 805 of the CRA notes that any “determination, finding, action, or omission,” made pursuant to the act is shielded from judicial review—a provision which most courts have upheld.
The tables below indicate which joint resolutions have been signed into law, are awaiting the president’s signature, or have passed the House or Senate. For actions before 2023, please see NCSL’s Congressional Review Act Resolution Tracker. Please check back periodically, as the tables will be updated as action is taken.