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Biden Order a Strong First Step Toward a Regulatory System ‘For the People’

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Responsive Government Defending Safeguards Public Participation

Statement of Center for Progressive Reform Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin on the Biden administration’s new regulatory reform package

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 6, 2023) — With today’s executive order on Modernizing Regulatory Review, President Joe Biden has broken ground on a new, more people-centered approach to federal regulation, one that is capable of meeting the pressing challenges of the 21st century and better protecting all people from health, safety, environmental, financial, and other hazards. If implemented well, this order will launch a new era for our federal regulatory system and the invaluable role it plays in our democratic system of government.

Over 100 years of experience has taught us that our regulatory system works best when people, not well-heeled corporate special interests, are its guiding star. But too often, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has conducted its regulatory review function in ways that prioritized industry profits over public protections.

While not as far-reaching as hoped, the executive order nevertheless demonstrates a firm commitment to remaking the regulatory system into a more level playing field for working families and communities of color. For instance, the order lays out several innovative reforms for making several steps in the rulemaking process more inclusive of the public as a whole, particularly for members of structurally marginalized communities.

Taken together, the reforms introduced in this order lay a strong foundation for the kind of robust, responsive, and inclusive regulatory system the public expects and deserves.

But further reforms from this administration are needed if this vision is to be realized. Most notably, the order still maintains a prominent place for the intrinsically flawed methodology of cost-benefit analysis in the regulatory review process. To be sure, the accompanying proposed revisions to Circular A-4 — which provides guidance to agencies on how to conduct regulatory analysis — would address some of its worst features. Nevertheless, the administration missed an opportunity to adopt an alternative approach to regulatory analysis that would better advance the order’s stated goals.

For decades, the Center for Progressive Reform has been critical of OIRA and called on lawmakers to drastically overhaul the role it plays in our regulatory system. While I am heartened to see these calls reflected in today’s executive order, we remain as committed as ever to pushing this administration to pursue more ambitious reforms.

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Responsive Government Defending Safeguards Public Participation