Trump picks fitting administrator to prune new regulatory environment
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On April 7, President Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Neomi Rao as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The announcement did not ignite the firestorm of political attention other nominations have received; good news, given that the position for which Ms. Rao was nominated is one that calls for a swift confirmation process.

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The significance and critical responsibilities of the administrator of OIRA is one of the best-kept secrets in Washington. The office — which has fewer than 50 people — sits within the president’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and is charged with reviewing and coordinating interagency review of significant proposed and final rules from agencies within the Executive Branch. As a result, the office has a hand in shaping nearly all rules that have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million, that have a material effect on the budget, or that raise novel issues of law or policy.

 

The current administration has been working aggressively to reshape the regulatory environment — as demonstrated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE’s executive order calling for the elimination of two regulations for every one issued, by establishing a regulatory budget for new regulations, and by a second executive order establishing departmental councils to find existing rules that are candidates for revocation or modification. OIRA will necessarily play a prominent role in implementing these orders.

The office has already issued two guidance documents to the rule-writing agencies on how to execute the president’s 2-for-1 order. And, not surprisingly, many of the questions being raised by those inside and outside the government have been answered by the suggestion that agency staff should consult with their counterpart at OIRA, who will make determinations on a case-by-case basis.

As a past administrator of OIRA, I know the importance of having qualified leadership at the helm. The members of OIRA’s career staff are exceptionally competent and able stewards in carrying out the responsibilities of the office. Until last Friday, they had the benefit of advice and support from an experienced and effective member of President Trump’s OMB “landing team,” Marcus Peacock.  His departure creates a vacuum of political accountability with respect to the president’s agenda.

Ms. Rao is an accomplished law professor, with prior experience in the government and private sector.  She works well with others, as evidenced by her appointment as a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and the Governing Council of the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice. She is clearly a smart and qualified choice to fill the post.

Whether or not members of the Senate agree with the governing philosophy that her nomination reflects, the president is entitled to fill essential political positions with individuals who, in carrying out their duties, will pursue his policy agenda. Senators should actively and pointedly question Ms. Rao during her hearing as diligently, appropriately and expeditiously as the position deserves. Then, they must vote.  

Sally Katzen is a Principal at the Podesta Group. She was formerly Deputy Director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget (1999-2001), Deputy Assistant to the President for economic policy, Deputy Director for the National Economic Council (1998-1999) and Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in OMB (1993-1998), where she was the senior adviser to the president on regulatory policy and process.


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