Administration

Senate confirms Trump’s ‘regulatory czar’

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The Senate on Monday confirmed Neomi Rao to be President Trump’s so-called “regulatory czar.” 

The Senate voted 54-41, mostly along party lines, to confirm Rao’s nomination to be administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

Often referred to as the “most powerful government office no one’s ever heard of,” OIRA oversees the federal government’s entire regulatory process. All proposed and final rules, as well as government data collections, have to be approved by the office. 

Rao will now be at the helm of Trump’s deregulation agenda.

Trump has issued executive orders to start rolling back former President Obama’s climate change agenda and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, as well as restrictions on offshore oil and natural gas drilling. 

He’s also directed federal agencies to create a task force to help carry out his order to find two rules to eliminate for every new rule they propose.

Though Rao breezed through her confirmation hearings, the pro-regulatory group Public Citizen raised concerns about her reported ties to the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.   

Rao is the founder of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University. The New York Times reported that the center is affiliated with the Antonin Scalia Law School and has been a beneficiary of a $10 million donation from the Charles Koch Foundation. 

On the Senate floor, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged her colleagues to reject Rao’s nomination. Warren argued that Republicans hand picked Rao to give big corporations more influence over the rulemaking process and bring independent agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under OIRA’s purview.

“If professor Rao had her way, independent agencies like the CFPB would be handcuffed to OIRA, the agency that she wants to run,” she said. “It is no surprise that the Wall Street giants who have been trying to take down the CFPB for years love Professors Rao’s views. If confirmed, professor Rao will be perfectly positioned to put her theories into practice. She will head the Trump administration’s efforts to toss out the rules that big businesses don’t like.” 

Not one Republican voted against Rao while six senators who caucus with the Democrats backed her: Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.); Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.); Angus King (I-Maine); Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.); Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.); and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) praised his colleagues for confirming Rao as the new OIRA administrator.  

“We can all agree that federal regulations should achieve their aim without imposing unnecessary costs on the country’s economy and job creators,” Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement. 

“I look forward to working with Professor Rao to reduce the burden of regulations — by our best estimates as high as $2 trillion a year – that weigh on the American economy.”

Tags Angus King Claire McCaskill Elizabeth Warren Heidi Heitkamp Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Ron Johnson Tom Carper

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