Senate panel confirms regulatory czar

President Obama’s nominee to lead the White House office that reviews new regulations has won the approval of a Senate committee and is heading to a vote by the full chamber.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously voted to send Howard Shelanski’s nomination to the full chamber for consideration on Monday evening.

{mosads}After Shelanski’s approval, which was done by voice vote, committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said he hoped Shelanski would be considered by the Senate before the July 4 recess, along with Obama’s nominees to lead the General Services Administration, Daniel Tangherlini, and to be deputy director of the White House budget office, Brian Deese.

“They’re terrific,” Carper said, hoping the nominees will be embraced by the full chamber. “I think we’re just very lucky to have these three people. They’re just extraordinary.”

If confirmed, Shelanski will serve as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a little-known but powerful arm of the White House that gives the stamp of approval for most new and proposed rules from agencies throughout the government.

The holder of the post has been dubbed the regulatory czar.

“The decisions of this important office can be felt throughout our government and economy,” Carper added in a statement. “The head of OIRA thus has several critical roles in determining how citizens will interact with their government.”

In his confirmation hearing this month, Shelanski avoided taking firm stands on a series of controversial topics affecting the office, such as the merit of environmental regulation and the extent of OIRA’s jurisdiction. 

He did, however, pledge to cut regulations that have outlived their use. Shelanski also advocated for rigorous analyses of a regulation’s costs and benefits as well as full transparency for evaluating new regulations.

Shelanski’s path to the Senate floor has been much smoother than Cass Sunstein, the previous OIRA administrator. Sunstein’s nomination was delayed for more than nine months over criticism from conservatives about his position on animal rights and an opposition to Obama administration “czars.”

Shelanski is currently the director of the Federal Trade Commission’s economic bureau.

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