Regs chief warns shutdown would halt rule review progress

Advocacy groups pressing for strengthened regulations have roundly criticized the Obama administration for failing to do more to clear the backlog.

“Mr. Shelanksi is to be commended for his efforts in reducing the unprecedented backlog of delayed rules at OIRA although, as he noted, much work remains to be done in terms of chronic delays,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen.

However, Shelanski said lean times at the office are limiting the progress, and a shutdown likely to take effect at midnight would stop it altogether.

OIRA, often called the gatekeeper for federal regulations, is tasked with reviewing significant rules proposed by agencies.

Once equipped with a 90-person staff, OIRA has shrunk in the decades since its inception in 1980.

Shelanski said the staff had been whittled down to roughly 40.

Sally Katzen, a visiting professor at NYU Law School and senior advisor for the Podesta Group, noted that the remaining positions had been subject to furloughs totaling as many as eight days, thanks to the funding cuts known as sequestration.

In the event of a shutdown, OIRA’s active staff would be reduced to two people, Shelanski said.

“We will not be able to continue operations,” he said. “All rulemaking review would shut down.” 

This story was updated with additional information at 6:08 p.m.