Taming White House Review of Federal Agency Regulations

by Lisa Heinzerling | October 11, 2018

This post was originally published as part of a symposium on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission.

Presidents since Ronald Reagan have, by executive order, required agencies to submit significant regulatory actions to the White House for review. Academic and public interest observers have variously criticized this review as slow, opaque, chaotic, lawless, and power-grabbing. Yet every president in the intervening years has not only embraced but also deepened the control of the White House over individual regulations.

Even President Obama, who announced early in his first term that he was conducting a top-to-bottom review of this process, ultimately embraced strict White House control over the rulemaking proceedings of the executive agencies. President Trump has taken White House control over rules to a whole different dimension by ordering agencies to revoke two existing rules for every new rule they issue and by giving them "budgets" for the costs they may impose on private entities.

One way to address some of the recurring criticisms of White House review would be for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which runs the review process, to hew more closely to the actual provisions of the Clinton-era executive order that still structures this process. Closer adherence to the existing executive order's provisions on review deadlines, transparency, and an orderly process for elevation of issues to the President would address some of the criticisms about undue delays, ...

CPR's Heinzerling Calls on Next President to Scrap White House Regulatory Review Process, Start from Scratch

by Brian Gumm | October 31, 2016
Earlier this month, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy published a collection of essays filled with legal and policy recommendations for the next president. Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar Lisa Heinzerling closed out the publication with a piece on improving federal environmental policy, which includes recommendations for how the next president can ensure that the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) stays out of the way.  Under the auspices of a series of executive ...

CPR's Driesen to Give House Judiciary a Tough Review of OIRA

by James Goodwin | July 06, 2016
This afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial, and Antitrust Law will hold an oversight hearing that looks at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the powerful White House bureau that sits at the center of the regulatory universe.  Originally created to oversee federal agencies' implementation of the Paperwork Reduction Act, a series of presidential executive orders stretching back to the Reagan administration has endowed OIRA with a powerful gatekeeping role over executive agencies' rulemaking ...

50 OIRAs? Another State (New Jersey) Drinks the Regulatory Review Kool-Aid

by James Goodwin | March 29, 2010
It’s official: Centralized regulatory review is trickling down to the states. Last month, in one of his very first actions as the newly elected Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie issued a pair of sweeping executive orders (no. 1 and no. 2) mandating centralized review of all state agency regulations to ensure that they are justified by cost-benefit analysis (CBA). The orders’ provisions mirror those of a controversial executive order issued by New York Governor David Paterson last August (for ...

Eye on OIRA: Sunstein Says Ambitious Efforts to Revamp Regulatory Review Tabled for the Time Being. What Does It Mean? Not Much. Just Ask Oscar the Grouch.

by Rena Steinzor | March 12, 2010
In a rare public appearance at the Brookings Institute Wednesday, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein is quoted by BNA’s Daily Report for Executives saying that his ambitious plans for revamping Executive Order 12,866 – the document that governs much of the process of regulating, and particularly OIRA’s role in it –have been tabled for the time being as he and his staff study the lengthy comments presented by a broad range of industry and public ...

OIRA Must Be Having a Doorbuster Sale of Its Own

by James Goodwin | November 25, 2009
Perhaps caught up in the spirit of the holiday shopping season, a large number of industry bargain hunters have been busy seeking great deals on regulatory relief at the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in recent weeks. To be precise, the bureau hosted no fewer than 11 meetings with corporate interests regarding seven different regulatory issues between November 4 and November 16. The meetings covered a range of topics. One meeting saw representatives of Shell Oil ...

What We'll Look For in the Obama Administration's Forthcoming Executive Order on Regulatory Process

by Ben Somberg | November 23, 2009
The Obama Administration is expected to issue revisions to Executive Order 12,866, which specifies how the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) supervises federal regulatory agencies as they develop regulations to protect health, safety, the environment, and more (see the full comments on the matter submitted by CPR's board members in March). CPR President Rena Steinzor and Board Member Rob Glicksman have issued a backgrounder on the coming Executive Order -- explaining the context and setting out six ...

'Curiouser and Curiouser!' Cried Alice ... A Tale of Regulatory Policy in the Obama Administration

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
Like Alice's adventure, the development of regulatory oversight in the Obama administration is becoming "curiouser and curiouser." President Obama selected Cass Sunstein to be the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a curious choice since Sunstein, although one of the country’s most distinguished academics, is in favor of extending the use of cost-benefit analysis, a position so popular with the business community that the Wall Street Journal endorsed his nomination. Sunstein's confirmation hearing was uneventful, probably ...

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