In December 2017, a U.S. federal law opened part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to oil and gas mining (see article by Randy Showstack, 27 November 2018, EOS). This decision was and remains deeply controversial, and now environmental and indigenous rights groups are hoping that a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will enable a reversal of the decision. But there is still a Republican majority in the Senate, which I believe would mean any law needs some bipartisan support. Does the House of Representatives have the power to block oil and gas mining in the ANWR, or would both chambers of Congress have to agree before the provisions authorising such mining can be revoked?

1 Answer 1


Congress, as a whole could pass legislation, and then could override a presidential veto, but the House, itself, is not empowered to act unilaterally.

In that kind of a situation, if there was the political will to obstruct, they could possibly bog the process down by having investigations and hearings about the decision, the process of arriving at the decision, the motivations of those involved, etc, but that would probably be something that would bring a political result (kind of like how perpetual "Benghazi" investigations put a corruption stink on Hillary Clinton in the eyes of the public for the 2016 elections, even though each and every GOP investigation all came to the same conclusion and cleared her of any wrongdoing, each and every time).

So, no, the House can't prevent that, itself.

  • Can they do that, even when the decision was in the past?
    – gerrit
    Nov 30, 2018 at 14:32
  • 2
    @gerrit - The decision to allow the drilling was made because the executive branch had that latitude under the law. In the past drilling was allowed, and Presidents have put it off-limits, back to allowed, etc., so there is obviously nothing inherent in a decision that makes it impossible to change. If Congress passed a law putting that off-limits, then that would change the legal basis and reverse the past decision, and then, going forward, a President could not make an executive decision to allow it - it would have to be changed legislatively. Nov 30, 2018 at 14:45

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