May 31, 2017

Drug testing rule becomes knowledge test for Congress

Republicans were really amped to make progress early in the Trump term by employing the Congressional Review Act, a powerful tool that could overturn any regulation finalized in the last 7 months of Obama's presidency with just a majority vote. Only used once before in history, Republicans passed 14 CRA resolutions, with all of them signed by Trump before this month's deadline.

But they didn't read the fine print. One of those CRA resolutions, bringing down a rule about drug testing for unemployment benefits, turns out to have the opposite effect that the GOP desired. Republicans didn't like the narrow rules from Obama's Labor Department on what job seekers could be tested for drug use. They boasted that nixing the rule would increase state prerogatives to expand drug testing. Actually, as Josh Eidelson explains, it takes away state authority.

Because the 2012 law let states test people suited for jobs specified by federal regulations, now that those regulations have been scrapped, there are no jobs for which states are able to test for drugs. Before Congress revoked Obama’s rules, states could have tested aspiring pipeline operators and commercial drivers; now they can’t...

States will get to impose broader testing requirements only if the Labor Department goes through its own formal rule-making process to issue stricter regulations... But legal experts say developing new regulations will be harder now that Congress has eliminated the old ones. That’s because the 1996 review act bans an agency whose regulation has been voided from enacting any new regulation that’s “substantially the same”... Any regulation Acosta comes up with is likely to be challenged in court on the grounds that it resembles Obama’s.

The only way to ensure that any Labor Department rules will stick is for Congress to pass a new law. But that will require beating the filibuster, the very problem they didn't have to worry about with the CRA. Of course, Obama signed such a law in 2012, attached to a must-pass bill, so it's possible that a rider makes it through to re-grant the Labor Department authority. But they could have simply allowed DoL to re-jigger the existing rule, instead of having to make them redo the whole regulatory process. The hilarious way this could all end is a new law and subsequent regulations that don't come out until mid-2020, enabling a potential successor to a one-term Trump to strike them down using the Congressional Review Act!

I guess when your political project is based entirely on raging id and a hatred of government, you don't bother to game out the consequences of government actions.


At The Intercept, Blackstone teams up with Saudi Arabia to build a $40 billion war chest to buy up U.S. infrastructure. (Read the story at The Intercept)

At The Fiscal Times, a pro-gun group strangely decided to go after legislation reforming the market for hearing aids - mainly because Elizabeth Warren's name was on it. (Read the story at The Fiscal Times)


I was in studio live with Sam Seder on The Majority Report talking about the Montana special election (this was taped on Election Day) and other matters. Watch here. (with special GOP conspiracy theory humor!)

The Stigler Center at The University of Chicago posted video of two panels I appeared on at their market concentration conference in March. Here's the one I moderated on Big Data and concentration; here's the other I was a panelist for on business journalism and antitrust.


Finger-pointing and $78 million in lobbying in three months, as Big Pharma awaits drug price legislative concepts (along with the middlemen).

Matt Taibbi on Goldman Sachs propping up the Venezuelan regime in a cash grab. 

Universal basic income as a welfare replacement regime would be a disaster.

Tesla was lying about its workplace safety record at the Fremont auto plant.

This is the very definition of predatory pricing.

Shareholder activism seeking climate change recognition at Exxon, the overthrow of directors at Mylan.

Using the SEC to get at the Labor Department's fiduciary rule.

I bet you they won't play this song on the radio. (That's an obscure Monty Python reference)


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