At the beginning of this year, I sent a letter to then President-elect Trump urging him to work with Congress and use his executive authority to provide regulatory relief to Kentucky coal miners and their families.
Last month, he stepped in to offer a much-needed reprieve from the so-called Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) regulation, which tried to extend the reach of the federal bureaucracy into nearly every pothole, ditch, and puddle in America.
And, now, President Trump has issued another sweeping executive order that will dismantle some of the worst energy regulations and executive orders from the Obama Administration — massive, anti-middle class regulations that sought to close existing coal plants and prevent new ones from ever being built.
For years, I repeatedly fought against regulations like these and sponsored legislation to overturn them, but President Obama always wielded a veto pen to protect his Far Left friends at the expense of Kentucky’s middle class. Now, with President Trump, we finally have a fighter for workers and jobs in our corner. I welcome him to this fight and I commend him for the critical actions he’s taken already.
It's important to remember how we got here.
President Obama came into office with huge majorities in both houses of Congress. He was often able to get his way. But when he tried to push through a regressive, anti-middle class energy regulatory scheme, he couldn’t even get his own Democrat-controlled Congress to go along. Undeterred, he went around Congress and imposed similarly regressive regulations anyway.
The Obama Administration sought to force states to dramatically restructure their electricity systems to meet unnecessarily stringent federal standards. Worse still, the assault on coal country would have only had minimal impacts on global climate levels. According to one study, the plan would have caused double-digit electricity rate hikes in over 40 states, including Kentucky. Furthermore, it would likely have resulted in job losses at a time when our economy was still undergoing a sluggish rebound from the recession.
I believed that the Obama Administration overstepped its legal authority in ordering states to adopt these energy plans — and even then-President Obama’s legal mentor rejected his power grab, saying it “usurp[ed] the prerogatives of the States, Congress and the Federal Courts, all at once” — so I sent a letter to the nation’s governors in March 2015 urging them not to move forward with the plan’s proposed requirements until the courts had weighed in on its legality.
In response to my call for action, 27 states joined to fight to overturn Obama’s energy regulatory scheme, and the Supreme Court issued an unprecedented nationwide halt. It was a critical judicial rebuke that provided President Trump with time to review the regulations. Additionally, the WOTUS regulation I mentioned earlier was also halted by the federal courts.
Now, President Trump’s executive orders give us the opportunity to send federal bureaucrats back to the drawing board on both these, and other, harmful regulations.
With these executive actions, President Trump has answered my call — and, more importantly, the call of millions of Americans — to overturn some of the most harmful Obama regulations and help struggling coal communities. But there is much more we can, and should, be doing to provide regulatory relief. During his two terms in office, President Obama unilaterally imposed ideological rules, often over the objections of Congress, which encroached into every part of Americans’ lives and hurt our country’s economy.
That’s why we’re using an important oversight tool known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to overturn certain harmful regulations with a simple majority vote. It also prevents bureaucrats from putting the same harmful policies back into place again.
We’ve already voted to end nearly a dozen harmful regulations — part of an effort that is being called the “most ambitious regulatory rollback since Reagan” — and President Trump has signed them into law. For instance, we were able to roll back the so-called “Stream Buffer” regulation that could have threatened thousands of America’s coal mining jobs (I introduced this provision in the Senate and made it the first CRA passed by the new Congress).
I am proud to stand united with the president to defend Kentucky’s middle class and coal communities from the previous Administration’s executive overreach, and I look forward to continuing to work with President Trump to support them going forward.
Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell is the U.S. Senate majority leader.