OIRA Archives - Shopfloor

President’s New Executive Order Looks to Strengthen Retrospective Reviews of Regs

By | Regulations | No Comments

Today President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring agencies to ask the public for “regulations in need of retrospective review” and semi-annually report to the public and to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on the status of retrospective review efforts. The order also directs agencies, when conducting retrospective reviews, to give priority to initiatives that will significantly reduce costs and burdens imposed on the public. Agencies are also directed to consider the cumulative effects of their regulations and give priority to those reforms that “would make significant progress in reducing those burdens….”

The Executive Order, a follow-up to an earlier order on retrospective review, is aimed at actually reducing the public burden imposed by existing regulations. Manufacturers are encouraged by the requirements placed upon agencies for public participation and for prioritizing review initiatives.

Involving OIRA, the federal government’s regulatory gatekeeper, in the retrospective review process is important. OIRA can hold agencies accountable and help ensure agency efforts result in real reductions of costs and burdens imposed on regulated entities.

The Executive Order’s issuance coincides with the release of a new report on retrospective review by the Council of Economic Advisers. The Council asserts that, with the Executive Order, “the process of retrospective review should become a standard part of the assessment of federal regulations.” Read More

House Hearing Examines President’s New Regulatory Approach

By | Regulations | One Comment

From the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, “Chairmen Upton and Stearns welcome administration’s acknowledgment that federal regulations are harming nation’s economy, stifling our recovery.”

WASHINGTON, DC – On Wednesday, January 26, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled The Views of the Administration on Regulatory Reform. Chairman Fred Upton and Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns look forward to discussing the Obama administration’s regulatory executive order and determining its impact on jobs and the economy. Upton and Stearns are especially concerned with the chilling effect unnecessary government mandates are having upon job growth.

The sole witness is Cass R. Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The Hill (blog), “Republicans to hold oversight hearing on Obama’s regulatory review
The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes, on the hearing as part of the Republicans’ oversight strategy, “In the Dock: Get ready for two years of Obama administration oversight by the House GOP

And, for a more thorough, conservative-minded examination of Cass Sunstein, his writings and his philosophy of government, we recommend The Claremont Review’s recent article, “A Czar is Born.” Post-modernism meets progressivism, author Joseph Postrell argues.

P.S. The Claremont Review has the best illustrations.

Circumnetting the President’s Executive Order on Regulations

By | Labor Unions, Regulations | One Comment

Federal News Radio’s report, “Obama’s regulatory reforms draw mixed reviews,” provides a thorough round-up of the reaction to President Obama’s new positioning on federal regulations, including the Executive Order, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.” It’s informative to read the comments Cass Sunstein, the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

“The Executive Order makes clear that the look back process will occur with full understanding of the agency’s priority settings and resource constraints in a tough budgetary environment. So we expect the agencies will take this process very seriously but do so in way that recognizes resources are not unlimited.”

Sunstein said agencies will have to find a way to do the look back based on the resources they have already.

“I don’t anticipate any additional budgetary assistance for the look back,” he said. “We do anticipate a rule of reason where agencies will be expected to make their own choices about how to balance the cost because in many of the agencies there either is some process of look back and because of all agencies there is considerable expertise about the existing set of programs, we don’t think this will require huge resources to be invested.”

Phew, exhaled the EPA officials. We have so many pending regulations that we really don’t have the budget and personnel to go back a look at the old ones. Carry on!

And at least one activist sees the new review process as an opportunity for MORE regulations. Gary Bass, head of OMBWatch, commented: “Bass said by looking back at existing regulations agencies may find not only outdated policies, but also gaps where new ones are needed.” Read More

Overregulation: EPA Excess, not Saccharine, is the Problem

By | General, Regulations | One Comment

From President Obama’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Toward a 21st-Century Regulatory System“:

[We] are also making it our mission to root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.

For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.

Wall Street Journal editorial, “Obama’s Rules Revelation“:

One example Mr. Obama cited yesterday is a now-defunct EPA rule that treated saccharin like hazardous waste, as if the current problem is archaic rules. But growth isn’t lethargic because there are still colonial laws on the books about when livestock are allowed to graze on the village green. The real problems are those his own Administration and its allies have created—the regulatory blowout of the 111th Congress and the laws his appointees are now abusing to bypass democratic consent.

Jacob T. Levy, McGill University, “Cass Sunstein in the News“:

Note that Obama’s op-ed named just one example of overregulation, already repealed: the classification of saccharine as hazardous waste by the EPA. And it foresees new or stiffer “safety rules for infant formula; procedures to stop preventable infections in hospitals; efforts to target chronic violators of workplace safety laws.” The emphasis of the piece is hardly on any claim that in fact there is too much regulation in any area. The tone is generally one that says “we’ve been doing things basically right and now we will confirm that will a self-audit.”

From the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a chart:

Read More

Let’s Be Cautious about Precaution in Chemical Reg Bill

By | Regulations | No Comments

From today’s Washington Post, “Lautenberg bill seeks to overhaul U.S. chemical laws“:

After a year of working with environmental groups, government regulators and the chemical industry, a leading advocate for chemical regulation has devised a plan to remake the nation’s chemical laws — a 34-year-old set of regulations that all players agree is outmoded and ineffective.

The plan, contained in legislation that Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is set to file Thursday, would require manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals before they enter the marketplace. That would be a significant departure from current laws, which allow chemicals to be used unless the federal government can prove they cause harm to health or the environment.

Sounds like the full-blown introduction of the regulatory philosophy embodied in the precautionary principle, i.e., the requirement that you prove a negative — no harm — before any new product can enter the market.

It’s a philosophy that leads to a stagnant marketplace, unnecessary costs, and more litigation. If the principle takes hold in regulation, the dynamic United States will become even more like Europe. As a wise man has written:

Over the coming decades, the increasingly popular “precautionary principle” is likely to have a significant impact on policies all over the world. Applying this principle could lead to dramatic changes in decision making. Possible applications include climate change, genetically modified food, nuclear power, homeland security, new drug therapies, and even war.

We argue that the precautionary principle does not help individuals or nations make difficult choices in a non-arbitrary way. Taken seriously, it can be paralyzing, providing no direction at all. In contrast, balancing costs against benefits can offer the foundation of a principled approach for making difficult decisions.

That’s Cass Sunstein, the abstract to his book, “The Precautionary Principle as a Basis for Decision Making.” Sunstein now holds the top regulatory review post in the Obama Administration, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Sunstein has written the single best newspaper column explaining why the precautionary principle is a bad idea. “Throwing precaution to the wind” appeared in the July 13, 2008, Boston Globe.

Cass Sunstein Confirmed to Top Regulatory Post, 57-40

By | Regulations | No Comments

By a vote of 57-40, the Senate has voted to confirm Cass Sunstein as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget.


We’ll post the roll call when it becomes available.

UPDATE: Here’s the roll call vote.

UPDATE (5:50 p.m.): Ah, now that he’s confirmed, the irrepressible Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch can re-emerge to criticize him: “We hope that he won’t be an impediment, based on his past emphasis on cost-benefit analysis to the exclusion of other values. We hope he will look at other values, such as protecting the environment.”

Early on it was the left-leaning “consumer activist” and environmental groups who criticized Sunstein because he has written favorably on cost-benefit analysis. But they had been largely quiet since Glenn Beck took up his television cudgel against Sunstein based — loosely based — on his writings on animal rights and the Second Amendment.

As you can read in Senator Lieberman’s floor statement yesterday, the NAM, U.s. Chamber of Commerce and American Farm Bureau all thought Sunstein was a good nominee based on his views on regulation and acumen.

UPDATE (6 p.m.): Ah, more warm greetings from the left now that Sunstein’s been confirmed, this from an early and harsh critic, Rena I. Steinzor, a Maryland law professor and president of the Center for Progressive Reform. She writes at The Pump Handle blog, attacking the OIRA in a post:

We look forward to working with Cass Sunstein. And we also promise to stay in his face, making sure he remembers that his biggest challenge is to revive strong government protection of environmental quality, food, drug, and worker safety, and the control of climate change, not working to appease industry. We wish him luck and success.

In Support of Cass Sunstein for Regulatory Post

By | Regulations | No Comments

Prior to the 63-35 cloture vote on the nomination of Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the leaders of the Senate committee who held his confirmation hearing spoke in praise of the nominee. We’ve uploaded the relevant section of The Congressional Record here.

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said:

Because Professor Sunstein is brilliant, creative, and prolific, he has written some things that are unconventional and, for some, controversial. I believe when asked about each of those matters he answered sincerely and fully and reassuringly.

For example, hunters were concerned about Professor Sunstein’s views on gun rights. He made very clear he believes the second amendment creates an individual right to possess guns for hunting and self-defense. To farmers and others concerned with his previous writings and comments on cruelty to animals, Professor Sunstein has said he would take no steps to promote litigation on behalf of animals, which some concluded was his position based on a provocative article he wrote, and that he has no plans, certainly, to regulate animal husbandry.

So this is a bright, thoughtful, creative man who, as a professor, has written some provocative, unconventional ideas. I suppose if one wanted to take advantage of them for one’s own purposes, to politicize, in some sense, or ideologize, in some sense, this nomination, one might seize on those. But at bottom, this is a person extraordinarily well qualified for this position.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the ranking member, also found Sunstein well-qualified, and his former law student, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke strongly in his favor.

Groups cited in his support were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Farm Bureau and National Association of Manufacturers. Included in the record was the letter from the NAM’s Vice President for Infrastructure, Legal & Regulatory Policy, Rosario Palmieri:

DEAR CHAIRMAN LIEBERMAN AND RANKING MEMBER COLLINS: On behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the millions of Americans our members employ, I am writing to offer our support for the confirmation of Cass Sunstein to be Administrator of the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management & Budget. Thank you for the swift work of your Committee to report Professor Sunstein favorably to the full Senate.

The NAM has supported nominees to OIRA under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The office plays a crucial role in agency prioritization, paperwork reduction, and regulatory review. President Obama said that the office offers a “dispassionate and analytical `second opinion’ on agency actions.” We believe that function is especially crucial during the economic crisis we face and to preserve high wage jobs from being lost due to unnecessary or thoughtless government action.

Cass Sunstein, in particular, is deserving of confirmation because of his keen intellect, expertise in the fields of administrative and environmental law, and his commitment to fair and reasoned deliberation of issues that will come before him. Under an Administrator Sunstein, all sides will be given a fair hearing and a real opportunity to impact the final analysis of an issue.

We stand ready to assist in ensuring confirmation by the full Senate of Cass Sunstein.

On the Pending Cass Sunstein Vote

By | Regulations | No Comments

The reliable Jake Tapper of ABC News writes that the Senate vote on Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs could occur as soon as today (at least cloture, we think), and reports on the criticism and defenses in, “The Sunstein Also Rises.

He notes that it was liberal groups like the Center for Progressive Reform and Clean Air Watch who initially attacked Sunstein after his nomination. Tapper also reports that Sunstein has responded to criticisms for his writings on animal rights and the Second Amendment.

But Cornyn and Chambliss ultimately relented. Sunstein wrote to Cornyn that “the Second Amendment creates an individual right to bear arms for purposes of self-defense and hunting,” and to Chambliss that “If confirmed, I certainly would not use my position at OIRA to promote animal standing in civil litigation, such standing would indeed be an intolerable burden on farmers, ranchers and hunters.”

Wrote the American Farm Bureau Federation in a September 1 statement:  “Like others in the agricultural community, we were concerned about reports related to Mr. Sunstein’s views on animal rights and the impact that could occur should such views be reflected in federal regulations. We have, however, had the opportunity to discuss this subject in person with Mr. Sunstein. He has been candid, forthright and very open about how he views his role in OIRA. He has shared his perspective on the issues in question and stressed that he would not use his position to undermine federal law or further policies inconsistent with congressional directives.”

Good report.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Although Tapper’s wrong to refer to Glenn Reynolds as a conservative. He’s a libertarian, mostly.

Cass Sunstein: A Regulator With Promise – Really

By | Regulations | No Comments

The Wall Street Journal, a consistently sharp critic of the Obama Administration, had this to say about Cass Sunstein, President Obama’s nominee to be head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the OMB.

We still don’t know much about how Barack Obama plans to overhaul our financial regulatory system, but his reported appointment of Cass Sunstein to an important post is a promising sign.

Mr. Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School, is no conservative — far from it. But his writings on regulation and the herd mentality deserve a voice in the incoming Administration. From his new post as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs inside the White House, he would have an opportunity to put into practice some of the ideas he has written about as an academic.

That was from a Jan. 10 editorial, “A Regulator With Promise — Really.” We were reminded of the editorial by a good piece today in the online Washington Independent by Dave Weigel, “Attacks on Sunstein Frustrate Conservative Fans.” Weigel reports:

Ilya Somin, a libertarian law professor at George Mason University, has written at the popular Volokh Conspiracy lawblog that “the czar system does circumvent the regular appointment and confirmation process.” Like Morrissey and Reynolds, he was critical of Beck and other Sunstein critics.

“Sunstein has nothing to do with the ‘czars’ or the problems with the ‘czars,’” said Somin. “The ironic thing is that anybody else who might be appointed to this job would be less qualified, and more liberal. I disagree with what Sunstein writes in ‘Nudge.’ But what he advocates is not as bad as the views likely to be held by other people who could run [the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs].”

Senate Majority Leader Reid submitted a cloture motion before the Senate adjourned in August, and the Senate could vote on cloture today after the tourism bill debate. We posted on Sunstein’s many merits yesterday, arguing that the attacks against him are indiscriminate and off-base.

More from Glenn Reynolds, as well as Dave Kopel at the Volokh Conspiracy, who writes on Sunstein and the Seconde Amendment and comments, “I echo Ilya’s point ….that Sunstein has a much more pro-liberty perspective than anyone else that Obama might nominate to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Policy.”