Senate confirms head of White House regulatory office

The Senate has confirmed Cass Sunstein to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

The Senate has confirmed Cass Sunstein to head the White House office that reviews proposed and final rules before they are published, a critical position in the federal regulatory process.

As administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Sunstein will head a small office that wields extensive power. The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 created OIRA, but it was under an executive order by President Bill Clinton that it gained extensive  power to steer and overrule agencies' regulations.

Sunstein, has taught at Harvard's law school and the University of Chicago's law school, and has authored several books. The Senate confirmed him by 57 to 40 on Sept. 10. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Sunstein in May.

“Cass Sunstein has exceptional qualifications and extraordinary talents and will lead OIRA in a positive direction,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), that committee’s chairman, said Sept. 10.

The nonprofit research and advocacy organization OMB Watch said Sunstein will be responsible for carrying out reforms to the regulatory process that the President Barack Obama has pledged. The group has criticized the regulatory process and wants Obama to change the relationship between OIRA and federal agencies that promulgate rules.

OIRA comes under the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

“We expect Cass Sunstein to oversee a regulatory system that puts the public first by allowing federal agencies to write and enforce the regulations that protect us in our everyday lives,” said Gary Bass, OMB Watch’s executive director. "We look forward to working with Sunstein and his OIRA staff to promote a regulatory agenda that actively works to protect the public."

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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