“The Congressional Review Act: The Basics”  

Read the Quick Guide 

We’ve received questions about how a new Congress and president could use the Congressional Review Act to overturn some of the previous administration’s rules.


CRA Basics PDF


As Election Day 2020 approaches, we’ve received questions from regulatory advocates about how a new Congress and president could use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn some of the previous administration’s rules, whether regulatory or deregulatory. There’s good reason to be wondering about this: the CRA’s “lookback” provision may well put rules published now within the next Congress’s reach to overturn using the fast-track procedures available under the CRA. To help answer some of these questions, we’ve developed, “The Congressional Review Act: The Basics.” It covers some of the most challenging issues in the CRA, including:

  • When its fast-track procedures can be used;
  • How far back the CRA can reach; and
  • What rules can be overturned. 

We also touch on different tactical uses of the CRA, such as an omnibus use of the CRA and how it can prevent substantially similar rulemakings in the future. 

Please check it out, and let us know what you think!


Nikka and Diane


Introducing “How to Comment” Quick Guide  

Read the Quick Guide

How to Comment is a one-page guide to the basics of influencing the process and rules you care about by submitting a formal comment.


How to Comment PDF


Federal agencies issue thousands of rules every year, and these affect our lives in even more ways. Luckily for those who want to have a say in rulemaking, agencies are required by law to consider suggestions and concerns you may have about many kinds of rules. This happens through a process called “notice and comment” rulemaking. How to Comment is a one-page guide to the basics of influencing the process and rules you care about by submitting a formal comment. It covers: 

  • How to find a rule to comment on;
  • What to pay attention to when reading a proposed rule;
  • What to put in your comment; and
  • How to submit your comment.

We hope this will be useful in your advocacy. Please check it out, and let us know what you think!


Nikka and Diane


Introducing “Working with Cost-Benefit Analysis as an Advocate”

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Using the language of cost-benefit analysis to explain how people are harmed by unjust policies makes it more likely that your argument will be heard, understood, and judged credible and relevant by regulators.

If you care about the rules agencies issue that governs everything from worker safety to clean air to payday lending, you’ve probably encountered the idea of cost-benefit analysis. Whether you want to comment on an agency’s proposed rulemaking, meet with congressional staff to discuss the impact of a rule on your community, or otherwise influence the regulatory agenda, you can maximize your impact if you reframe your arguments and strategies in the language of cost-benefit analysis.

As an advocate, you have a competitive advantage when it comes to cost-benefit analysis. You know how regulations play out in real life and how one rule interacts with a host of other laws, regulations, and local social and economic practices. All of this is relevant to determining what the costs and benefits of any given regulation are, and all of it is information regulators often can’t get without your engagement. With the right framing, you can turn your intimate knowledge of your community into a compelling point for the agency to consider.

So where do you begin? How should you frame your arguments? What strategies will make your input effective?

To make this process more accessible for advocates, we’ve drafted Working with Cost-Benefit Analysis as an Advocate, a guide which outlines the main components of cost-benefit analysis and highlights strategies advocates can use when engaging in regulatory advocacy. Working with Cost-Benefit Analysis as an Advocate covers:

  1. Requirements for Agencies: The main points of Executive Order 12,866, which sets forth the basic requirements for cost-benefit analysis for most federal agencies, and some information about how regulatory agencies not governed by EO 12866 may approach cost-benefit analysis.
  2. Common Alternative Approaches for Regulations: A list to help anticipate, address, or support other routes for the agency to take.
  3. Common Considerations in Cost-Benefit Analysis: Definitions and examples of concepts that are frequently used in cost-benefit analysis.
  4. Strategies to Make Cost-Benefit Analysis Work for Advocates: A range of ideas for identifying and sharing relevant and helpful information.

Working with Cost-Benefit Analysis as an Advocate is 7 pages long, written in simple language with examples, and is designed to be accessible for any advocate interested in shaping the rules agencies issue.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Travis, Diane, and Kate

Introducing “Decoding the Unified Agenda:  A Guide for Advocates”

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Decoding the Unified Agenda will help you to decide whether to commit resources and engage with the rulemaking process.

If you’re trying to track what rulemaking federal agencies are doing, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Unified Agenda. Twice a year, the federal government publishes the Unified Agenda, which provides an update on all the rulemaking planned for the next six months across the federal government. If you want to understand or influence the rulemaking process, from the Department of Agriculture to the Surface Transportation Board and all the agencies in between, the Unified Agenda provides essential information on what agencies are doing.

But we know from personal experience that reading the Unified Agenda can sometimes be a baffling experience.

What does it mean when an agency says something is in a pre-rule stage? And how can you tell an essential initiative from one that is just a formality?

We’ve drafted Decoding the Unified Agenda to answer those questions and others, hoping that it will help make your advocacy easier and more effective. Decoding the Unified Agenda will help you to decide whether to commit resources and engage with the rulemaking process. It covers the following topics and “how-tos:”

  1. Identifying Important Issues: How to spot rules in the Unified Agenda that implicate significant matters of policy.
  2. Assessing Your Potential Strategic Contribution: How to determine whether you have access to information, stories, or other data relevant to the potential rulemaking.
  3. Making Your Plans: How to establish the amount of time you have to gather and provide information to the agency.
  4. Pushing Your Agenda: How to move forward if a rulemaking related to your campaign is absent or stalled.

Decoding the Unified Agenda provides a straightforward account of how to figure out what an agency is doing using the Unified Agenda and how to use it to plan your advocacy. Decoding the Unified Agenda is written in plain, simple language, with lots of examples, and headers. At just over 11 pages, we think you should be able to find what you need quickly.

Please check it out, and let us know what you think!

Kate, Nikka, and Diane

Why Do Regulatory Advocacy?  

For legal services attorneys and others

If you’re a legal services attorney, as I was for many years, you’ve got more pressing client needs than you can meet.  Your days are full, and there is always another client waiting.  You probably got into the job because you felt a calling, although some days it can be hard to see if you are making a difference.  Injustice abounds, and your tools can feel limited.  This can be true for all kinds of grassroots organizers, social service providers, and advocates—the world is crying out for change and our time and energy is limited.

And, right now, that cry for change and those pressing client needs are more pressing than ever.  COVID-19 has laid bare in the most stark and chilling terms the life-destroying impact that generations of racism, racial inequality, and poverty have had.  African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans are all dying at vastly disproportional rates.  We’ve seen violent suppression by the state of legitimate calls to address centuries of oppression.  There is a renewed urgency to our collective work for racial and economic justice.

So, why?  Why do regulatory advocacy?  Rules take forever to get written, and, at the federal level, we are facing an administration bent on removing regulatory protections.  The President’s tweets, if not the agencies’ agendas, indicate implacable hostility to fair housing and fair lending, at least as those terms have been commonly understood. 

Here’s why.  Regulatory advocacy allows us to tap into power.  The work of implementing and maintaining legislative victories happens in the regulatory agencies.  Regulatory agencies set the rules for who can live in public housing, the terms on which hungry children and their families can get food stamps or public assistance, and who can apply for asylum and how.  To take the specific core building blocks of economic justice and access to credit, one agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau controls  the rules about how credit reporting is done, what happens when you can’t pay your mortgage or payday loan, and the terms on which that mortgage or payday loan are made, including whether and how a lender can discriminate against you.  Regulatory advocacy, quite simply, lets us help set the framework in which all the rest of our work and advocacy for justice and equity takes place.

Regulatory advocacy also leverages what we know and do well.   Regulatory agencies are required by law to ask us—all of us—what we think the impacts of their proposed regulations will be and what better approaches to solving the problem exist.  Anyone who works representing legal-services clients will know intimately the impact of laws and regulations on their clients and client communities.  And that detailed, specific, concrete knowledge is exactly what regulators most often struggle to get and are required to consider—if we give it to them.

And here’s why, too.  Remember how I earlier mentioned the racial disparities in death rates from COVID-19?  We only know that because a lot of people did a lot of regulatory advocacy.  Early on, in the pandemic, demographic data collection was spotty.  It wasn’t until June 4 that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services required reporting of demographic data along with COVID-19 test results.  Advocates pressed the government at the county, state, and federal level to collect and release demographic data.  And they were successful.  Having those numbers out there in the public has changed the narrative and enabled further advocacy to address systemic imbalances.

There are always avenues for regulatory advocacy and always a need for regulatory advocacy. If we don’t do the regulatory advocacy, other people will, and the stories they tell will not be the ones we would tell, and the results they get will not reflect the actual lived experiences of our communities. 

In the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out on this website a range of documents to try to help support your work in regulatory advocacy.  We hope you’ll subscribe to receive our work and let us know what works for you and what doesn’t.



Introducing the Consumer Rights Regulatory Engagement and Advocacy Project

Hi!  We’re so glad you found your way here.

Diane Thompson, a former CFPB Deputy Assistant Director for Regulations and a longtime legal services attorney in East St. Louis, Illinois, created this project to fill a gap she saw.  Advocates for communities of color and for low-income communities often focus their advocacy on achieving legislative victories, but the work of implementing and maintaining those victories is carried out at regulatory agencies, where advocates tend to have less engagement.  At the same time, regulatory agencies are mandated by law to be responsive to the public and to take into account the impact on the public of their rules.  What would it take to make agencies live up to this mandate? 

We believe that it is possible for advocates to have a greater impact on regulatory agencies than they do currently, with the right support.  Our goal is to help provide that support, so advocates can engage with regulatory agencies more effectively without detracting from their other mission-critical work.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out short documents to help support regulatory advocacy on behalf of marginalized communities.  We have documents in the pipeline on the Unified Agenda (the federal government-wide listing of upcoming regulatory actions), a one-page check-list on how to comment, working with cost-benefit analysis, and the Congressional Review Act.  We’ve tried to make these documents generic, while bringing to bear our CFPB-specific experience.  We’ve asked other advocates and former regulators to review these documents and incorporated their feedback, in an effort to ensure the materials are both accurate and practical.  We think there is great untapped power in regulatory advocacy for justice and equity, and we hope these documents will help advocates do their essential work better and more easily.

If you subscribe, we’ll send you our blogs and materials as they come out.  And please, let us know what works and what doesn’t.  If there’s something specific you want to see, let us know.  We’re excited to have this chance to work together for change.


–The CRREA Project Team (Diane, Kate, Nikka, and Travis)