Free to Prosper: Top Priorities for the 115th Congress

A preview of CEI's forthcoming Agenda for the 115th Congress

After a contentious election season, we look forward to the nation’s elected representatives rolling up their sleeves and getting back to work. Starting in January, the 115th Congress will have an unusually promising opportunity to roll back excessive government control throughout the economy. However, more important than any of the particular bill will be the need for the legislative branch of government to broadly reassert its powers under Article I of the Constitution.

As a nation, we authorize one institution, Congress, to write the laws. Yet, the vast expansion of areas over which the federal government has seen fit to implement control means that members of Congress have, over time, delegated an increasing amount of authority to the various cabinet department and agencies in the executive branch. And the appetite for exercising that authority on the part of federal bureaucrats has grown correspondingly. Federal courts have done little to slow this administrative mission creep, which means that unaccountable regulators now rule over more of our lives than ever before.

Congress will need to pass procedural reforms over how federal rules are made and implemented generally, at the same time as they reform policy affecting specific sectors of the economy. Industry-specific regulations burdening banking, telecommunications, and energy production need action, while directives on labor and employment practices that affect every employer should also be a top priority.

Congress must be willing to look at the evidence and end policies that have produced large costs and negligible benefits for Americans. The institutional incentives of an expanding bureaucracy mean that government agencies are unable to undertake this vital reevaluation of their mission on their own. Even previous presidents, nominally in charge of the executive branch agencies, have been surprisingly ineffective at reorienting the rulemakers who work for them. Congress must act decisively.

CEI’s forthcoming publication, Free to Prosper: A Pro-Growth Agenda for the 115th Congress, will be released on December 8, 2016. Below is a preview of the policies we’re urging members of the House and Senate to act on.

Regulatory Reform and Agency Oversight

Banking and Finance

Labor and Employment

  • Reform the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Oppose the Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule
  • Reform the Worker Classification Process
  • Improve Oversight of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division
  • Reform the National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board
  • Outlaw Union Violence
  • Prevent Implementation of the NLRB’s Ambush Election Rule
  • Prevent Implementation of the NLRB’s New Joint Employer Standard
  • Protect Worker Pensions by Reforming the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s Multiemployer Program
  • Protect State and Local Taxpayers by Promoting Better Public Pension Governance

Energy and Environment

  • Repudiate the Paris Climate Agreement
  • Defund the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • Overturn (or at Least Defund) the EPA’s Clean Power Plan
  • Repeal the EPA’s Purloined Power to Legislate Climate Policy
  • Repeal the EPA’s Carbon Dioxide Standards for New Fossil-Fuel Power Plants
  • Oppose Carbon Taxes
  • Prohibit Use of the “Social Cost of Carbon” as a Justification for Regulating Emissions
  • Freeze and Sunset the Renewable Fuel Standard
  • Require All Agencies to Meet Rigorous Scientific Standards
  • Address Unaccountable Environmental Research Programs

Environmental Protection on Private and Public Lands

  • Reform Environmental Regulation of Private Lands
  • Shrink the Federal Estate
  • Restore Resource Production on Federal Lands
  • Remove Bogus Climate Planning from Federal Land Policy

Technology and Telecommunications

  • Protect Internet Freedom against Burdensome Net Neutrality Mandates
  • Oppose Taxation of Internet Access
  • Protect Privacy and Cybersecurity by Securing Private Information from Undue Government Prying
  • Empower the Market to Protect Cybersecurity
  • Oppose Burdensome Internet Sales Taxes
  • Modernize Regulation of Television and Media
  • Update Copyright for the Internet Age


Food, Drugs, and Consumer Freedom

  • Protect Consumer Freedom by Ensuring Access to Genetically Engineered Foods
  • Streamline Regulation of Genetically Engineered Plants and Foods
  • Repeal the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard
  • Protect Consumer Food Choice by Opposing EPA Overregulation of Food Additives
  • Protect Consumer Food Choice by Opposing the FDA’s “Voluntary” Sodium Limits
  • Protect Consumers’ Access to Life-Saving Drugs and Medical Devices
  • Modernize the Rules for Evaluating New Drugs and Medical Devices
  • Expand Patient Access to Experimental Treatments
  • Protect Consumers’ Access to Tobacco Substitutes and Vaping Products
  • Improve Oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Regulation of Phthalates
  • Improve Oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Response to Calls to Ban Flame Retardants
  • Improve Oversight and Defund Activist Research
  • Protect Federalism and American Adults’ Access to Online Gambling Platforms
  • Repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act