House Oversight chair rips White House on blown deadline

The White House’s regulatory office is neglecting its duties to inform Congress and the public about plans to enact new federal rules, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee contends.

In a letter shared with The Hill on Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa (D-Calif.) demands information from newly installed White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell about plans to issue its regulatory agenda.

Burwell oversees the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which is charged with compiling a list of proposed rules from federal agencies in a Unified Agenda, typically made public in spring and fall.

Last year, the agenda was not released until December, prompting criticism from Republicans who suggested the administration was withholding its rulemaking agenda for political reasons.

Under the law, federal agencies are supposed to submit their lists in April and October. This year, there is no sign that OIRA has issued its call for the information, Issa wrote in the May 6 letter to Burwell.

“It is your responsibility to ensure that OIRA follows the law and keeps the public informed about regulations,” Issa wrote in the letter, which is also signed by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the committee’s subcommittee on regulatory affairs.

The lawmakers requested information about when the spring agenda would be published and said Burwell’s attention to the matter is especially crucial, given that OIRA has been without an administrator since last August, when Cass Sunstein departed.

Last month, President Obama nominated Howard Shelanski, an economist and lawyer working at the Federal Trade Commission, to succeed Sunstein. No date for a confirmation hearing has been set.

In the meantime, Issa said he took exception to remarks made by Burwell in her own recent confirmation hearing.

Asked by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) whether she would pledge to put an end to the missed deadlines for submitting the Unified Agenda, Burwell declined, saying she did no know the facts around the issue and would be “uncomfortable making a commitment.”

“This statement is troubling not only because the OMB [Office of Management and Budget] director should understand this legal obligation, but also because a lack of factual knowledge should not prevent a commitment to follow the law,” the letter reads.

Requests for comment from OMB were not immediately answered Thursday afternoon.