New regs czar invited for grilling on employer mandate delay

Shelanski began work as director of the little known but influential White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on Wednesday, a day after the administration announced plans to hold off for a year on penalties for employers who don’t provide health insurance for their workers.

The decision, which came after intense lobbying pressure, has touched of a firestorm of criticism from congressional Republicans, who accused the president of “picking and choosing” which parts of the law to follow.

“The Obama administration continues to enact sweeping changes to federal law behind closed doors,” Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said in a statement issued Monday. “The unilateral delay of the employer mandate is just the latest example and further confirmation the health care law is fatally flawed.”

The two men, who head Education and Workforce subcommittees with partial jurisdiction over healthcare issues, sent a letter on Friday to Shelanski requesting his presence at the upcoming hearing.

In it, the lawmakers urged Shelanski to accept, since he now heads the office that essentially serves as the clearinghouse for new and proposed regulations issued by federal agencies.

“As a senior leader at the Office of Management and Budget, you are uniquely qualified to respond to questions regarding the decision-making process that led to the unilateral delay of the employer mandate,” they wrote.

Still, they acknowledged his short time on the job.

“We understand you assumed the responsibilities of your office this week,” Roe and Walberg wrote. “Therefore, we are happy to consider requests for special accommodations you may need to ensure a productive hearing.”

The invitation indicates congressional Republicans, who have been relentlessly critical of the Obama administration’s regulatory policies, may look to Shelanski to answer for them.

OIRA, housed in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), had been without a permanent administrator for almost a year following the departure of Cass Sunstein from the position.

Questions to the OMB about whether Shelanski would accept the invitation were not immediately answered Monday.

Shelanski, however, has agreed to testify this Thursday about the administration’s contentious decision to raise estimates of the “social cost” of carbon emissions in the United States.