On the eve of the election, the New York Times editorial board wrote up an excellent critique of Bush’s last minute, lame duck executive orders that he signed on November the first. Here are some excerpts:
Agents will be allowed to use informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject’s neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends.
[The EPA is] expected to issue a final rule that would make it easier for coal-fired power plants to locate near national parks in defiance of longstanding Congressional mandates to protect air quality in areas of special natural or recreational value. Interior also is awaiting E.P.A.’s concurrence on a proposal that would make it easier for mining companies to dump toxic mine wastes in valleys and streams.
Existing law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. These changes would extend the so-called right to refuse to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims.
At the time I wondered why he didn’t just wait until after the election to push through these draconian orders. It turns out he was trying to sneak in under the deadline so that these changes can’t be easily reversed.
Apparently, regulations that aren’t finalized, meaning signed as an executive order within the last 60 days, can be easily reversed by Congress in an unfilibustable up-or-down vote. Since Democrats have a strong hold on both houses, that could be easily done. But orders that are issued beyond that 60 day limit can only be undone after investigations, comment periods, reviews, committees and sub-committees and the like, which could take years.
But hold on to your official White-House-branded pen – that’s not all she wrote. A clause in the Congressional Review Act of 1996 that Clinton signed into law stated that “any regulation finalized within 60 legislative days of congressional adjournment is considered to have been legally finalized on the 15th legislative day of the new Congress, likely sometime in February. Congress then has 60 days to review it and reverse it with a joint resolution that can’t be filibustered in the Senate.”
That means that Executive Orders signed within the last six months can be eliminated with a quick party-line vote. This even applies to regulations that have already been enacted.
So you don’t have to worry about all that scary quote block above you, or any future lame moves that duck might do. The only thing left for Bush is figure out how many pardons to give out.
Update: It looks like the MSM is picking up on this. Here is the Associated Press’s take on it.