House approves Ratcliffe bill to rollback legal deference to regulatory agencies, restore separation of powers

The House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday that U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) introduced to rollback a legal precedent that says that courts should defer to administrative agencies in most legal disputes.

The Separation of Powers Restoration Act (SOPRA), H.R. 4768, would overturn the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chevron v. NRDC that found that courts should defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes in most cases.

“For too long Americans have lived in a regulatory state where unelected bureaucrats are leveraging a 1984 Supreme Court decision to regulate far beyond the bounds originally defined by the Constitution,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s time that we put an end to this ongoing abuse of the separation of powers.”

The bill would amend the Administrative Procedure Act so that courts would be required to start from scratch in review of all questions of law instead of placing more weight on the interpretations of federal agencies.

“I’m grateful for the broad support this legislation received, because when the Constitution is defended, it’s the American people who win,” Ratcliffe said. “They are rightfully sick and tired of faceless, unelected bureaucrats engaging in de-facto lawmaking to make their lives more difficult. This bill says that tipping the scales in favor of the regulators is no longer acceptable.”

Speaking in support of the bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that courts have given deference to the executive branch in interpreting laws for too long.

“This deference empowers nameless, faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats to re-write laws and attach meaning that was never Congress’s intent,” Ryan said. “With this legislation, we are clamping down on this practice — and taking a first step toward restoring power to Congress and, more importantly, to the voters who send us here.”

U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) said that he has seen the impact of an aggressive executive branch’s regulatory burden first-hand in Indiana.

“The overregulation of our industries like coal and agriculture has put good-paying jobs at risk,” Bucshon said. “The courts have allowed unelected bureaucrats to effectively legislate through these regulations and rules without accountability from the American people. With this bill, we restore the separation of powers and reclaim the constitutional power of Congress and the American people to write the laws that govern this country.” 

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