U.S. House of Representatives Strikes Blow Against Federal Regulations, Votes to Overturn Controversial Supreme Court Ruling

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to overturn a 1984 Supreme Court ruling Republicans say gave the executive branch far too much power to impose regulation, costing Americans trillions of dollars per year.

Legislators approved the Separation of Powers Restoration Act (SOPRA) 220-211, mostly along party lines.

Republicans argued for several years that the Supreme Court precedent set in the Chevron U.S.A, Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. effectively told courts they could defer to federal agencies when interpreting laws passed by Congress when writing regulations. Republicans say since the ruling; the courts have failed to do their due diligence in assessing whether rules under the law can be fairly justified.

GOP Representative Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin, the lawmaker who sponsored SOPRA, argued Thursday on the House floor that the Supreme Court ruling has given the executive branch broad authority to regulate at its pleasure, often in ways in contradiction to the intent of Congress.

“Since 1984, when the Supreme Court ruled that courts must defer to an agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute rather than what Congress intended, the executive branch has begun usurping the legislative branch to issue regulations with the force of law,” said Fitzgerald. “It is certainly not what our founders intended.”

Rep. Fitzgerald added that the cost of these regulations has piled up on Americans over the past several decades.

“The total annual cost of regulation is almost $2 trillion, or about 8% of the U.S. GDP,” said Fitzgerald. “If it were a country, for comparison, U.S. regulation would be the world’s eighth largest economy.”

GOP Representative Tom McClintock of California said the Supreme Court ruling goes against the intent of the Constitution, which lays out that Congress writes the laws. At the same time, the executive branch carries them out.

“One brother makes law but cannot enforce it; the other brother enforces law but cannot make it,” said McClintock.

Dems say overturning the Supreme Court decision would force courts to take on considerable work

Democrats say overturning the decision by the Supreme Court would force the courts to take on considerable work as they try to understand federal law. Top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, said the Bill would “completely upend the administrative process by eliminating judicial deference to agencies and require federal courts to review all agency rulemakings and interpretations of the statute on a de novo basis.”

Additionally, Nadler said Congress defers to agencies to do the work of deciding specific regulatory policies because it doesn’t have the expertise to do that job.

“While Congress sets broad policies, we delegate authorities to executive agencies because we do not have the expertise to craft the technical regulations ourselves, and we rely on these agencies to carry out the policies we enact,” said Nadler.

The legislation is unlikely to move in the Senate, which is Democrat-controlled, and the White House has said President Joe Biden would veto it.

However, the issue could be decided instead by the Supreme Court itself. In the fall, the Supreme Court is expected to hear a dispute between the federal government and fishermen in New Jersey over whether federal rules on fishermen vastly exceed what was allowed by Congress.

In that case, lower courts have leaned on the 1984 Chevron precedent to say they defer to federal regulators. However, the case is now at the Supreme Court, which could decide to overturn the precedent.