Vote Explanation for H.R. 4768 — Separation of Powers Restoration Act

The Separation of Powers Restoration Act would fundamentally change the way federal courts review federal agency decision making. Currently, when a federal court reviews whether an agency decision is consistent with the law, the court must defer to the agency when Congressional intent is not clear and the agency’s interpretation is reasonable. This principle, known as the Chevron Doctrine, has been settled law for over thirty years. It gives agency decision makers the necessary leeway to interpret statutes when their meaning is not clear.

This bill would alter that framework drastically. Instead of federal courts being required to defer to reasonable agency interpretations, they will now review agency decisions without any deference. The opinions of federal judges, not agency subject matter experts, will determine the validity of technical policy determinations.

When Congress has left a gap in a statute that gives a federal agency the authority to act, agency leaders, who are explicitly tasked with administering the law in a specific area of expertise, not federal judges should be able to fill that gap.

H.R. 4768 is an attempt by Republican leadership to eliminate an important tool that the current Administration, and presidential administrations since 1984, have used to make policy and administer the law. Not only will this change important technical policy decisions in the hands of less knowledgeable judges, but it will also clog up our federal court system with in-depth reviews of complicated agency decisions which previously would have been disposed of quickly.

The Chevron Doctrine has never presented a separation of powers problem. Rather, it ensures that the executive branch has the discretion to do its job once Congress has directed it to do so. That is why I voted against this incredibly flawed legislation.