Trump Administration Could Expand Drug Testing For Unemployment After Repealing Obama-Era Rule

Trump meets with labor leaders on January 23, 2017. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration is looking to expand drug testing for unemployment benefits about a year after killing an Obama-era rule that limited the ability of states to screen applicants.

The U.S. Labor Department has indicated it would broaden the number of occupations that can drug test for unemployment, accoridng to The Hill. The 2016 rule repealed last year limited testing to certain kinds of jobs, including public transit drivers, pilots, and professions that required the use of firearms. The Labor Department now might redefine and broaden the range of occupations and the guidelines for testing.

The department's semi-annual regulatory agenda warned that states "no longer have authority to drug test unemployment compensation applicants for whom suitable work is only available in occupations that regularly conduct drug testing for unlawful use of controlled substances" after Congress repealed the Obama-era rule.

States could continue testing government assistance applicants from those professions after the rule took effect. In March of last year, Trump lifted the rule and said that the federal government would not limit the states' ability to drug test unemployment applicants.

The Republican-controlled Congress repealed the 2016 limitation using the Congressional Review Act (CRA). Congress has repealed about 15 regulations using the CRA during the Trump administration.

"President Trump just signed into law my bill that abolishes an Obama-era rule," Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said after Trump signed the bill into law. "After 5 years of battling with the Obama Department of Labor, states like Texas will now be allowed to drug test folks on unemployment to ensure they are job ready from day one. This is a win for families, workers, job creators, and local economies." Brady had proposed the bill along with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

In December 2017, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker decided to go ahead with plans for the state drug test for people seeking states assistance through food stamps, though similar plans had been blocked by court or the federal government. However, in Brady's state of Texas, regulators are still waiting for federal guidelines before drug testing unemployment applicants.