The House voted Thursday to overturn a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that Republicans say gave the executive branch too much power to impose regulations that cost Americans trillions of dollars each year.
Lawmakers approved the Separation of Powers Restoration Act, or SOPRA, in a mostly party-line 220-211 vote.
Republicans have argued for the last several years that the Supreme Court precedent set in the Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. case effectively told courts that they should defer to federal agencies when they interpret laws passed by Congress as they write regulations. Republicans say that since that ruling, courts have failed to do their due diligence in assessing whether those regulations can be fairly justified under the law.
The lawmaker who sponsored SOPRA, Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., argued on the House floor Thursday that the Supreme Court ruling has given the executive branch vast authority to regulate as it pleases, and often in ways that contradict the intent of Congress.
“The total annual cost of regulation is almost $2 trillion, or about 8% of the U.S. GDP,” he said. “If it were a country, for comparison, U.S. regulation would be the world’s eighth largest economy.”
A bill introduced by Rep. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Wis., to overturn a Supreme Court precedent was passed in the House on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
“One brother makes law but cannot enforce it, the other brother enforces law but cannot make it,” he said.
Democrats said overturning the Supreme Court decision would force the courts to take on considerable work as they try to interpret federal law. Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, 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 statute on a de novo basis.”
Nadler also said Congress defers to agencies to do the work of deciding specific regulatory policies because it does not have the expertise to do that job.
But the issue could be decided by the Supreme Court itself. In the fall, the Supreme Court is expected to hear a dispute between fishermen in New Jersey and the federal government over whether federal rules on fishermen are vastly exceeding what was allowed by Congress.
In that case, lower courts have leaned on the 1984 Chevron precedent to say they are giving deference to federal regulators. But the case is now at the Supreme Court, which could decide to overturn the precedent.