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Clock running out for Congress to repeal recent Obama rules

Time is running out for the GOP-controlled Congress to overturn rules the Obama administration finalized in its last months, but the White House said agencies can act on their own after the deadline to undo regulations.

The Trump administration has rescinded 11 recent Obama-era rules using the Congressional Review Act, or CRA. The law allows Congress to repeal rules finalized during the previous 60 legislative days with backing from a simple majority of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as approval from the president. The CRA also prohibits agencies from creating substantially similar rules to those overturned through the review act.

Before President Donald Trump entered office Jan. 20, only one rule was overturned through the CRA, by President George W. Bush. But Trump made easing regulatory burdens for U.S. businesses, including energy producers, a major part of his campaign. He has therefore signed CRA measures to undo the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's Stream Protection Rule for coal producers, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring disclosure of energy companies' payments to governments for resource development and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's broadband privacy rules.

White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short said the Trump administration hopes to sign two more CRA disapproval resolutions into law before the window on eliminating Obama-era rules closes at the end of April. Those pending resolutions seek to strike down a rule that prohibits states from blocking federal money for abortion providers and a rule that moves private employees into government retirement programs.

"I think this is a huge accomplishment in the first quarter," Short said on an April 5 call with reporters. He estimated the regulations Trump has reversed so far through the CRA will save U.S. taxpayers about $10 billion.

Oil and gas industry groups have also pushed Congress to rescind a methane emissions rule for production sites on public lands, but the Senate has yet to vote on that measure. Trump, however, directed the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to pull the rule for review as part of a sweeping executive order to reconsider Obama's climate policies.

Although time is short to use the CRA to attack the prior administration's regulations, Short said Trump can still direct agencies to review or undo policies he does not like.

"We'll see more action from the executive branch" to reverse regulations, Short said, a task the president will "leave to the cabinet secretaries to address."

The rules Trump has repealed through the CRA include:

* SEC's rule requiring public financial disclosures by energy resource developers.

* OSMRE's Stream Protection Rule.

* BLM's "planning 2.0" rule regarding public land use management.

* Labor rules limiting states' ability to drug test unemployment benefit applicants.

* FCC rules applying telecommunications regulations to internet providers.