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Press Releases :: April 30, 2009

Subcommittee Examines Role of Science, Transparency in Regulation

(Washington, DC) –Today the House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing on the role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, or OIRA, in regulatory reform.  Witnesses from public watchdog organizations and academia were asked their opinions on issues that included: OIRA’s past, current, and ideal role in the regulatory process - particularly the way it uses or challenges scientific information and its relationship to federal regulatory agencies; the standard of transparency that should be expected of OIRA in the regulatory process; and what the role of cost-benefit analysis should be in the regulatory process.

“Though rarely in the headlines, OIRA has, in the years since its creation under President Reagan, quietly become the most powerful regulatory office in the Federal government,” said Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC).  “A Bush Administration Executive Order gave OIRA even greater powers, powers that could be exercised behind closed doors.  In changing the review process, it strengthened the influence of OIRA, which is staffed mainly by economists, over the final content of regulations first drafted by regulatory agencies’ scientific and technical experts.  The order had the effect of placing in the hands of the president, OIRA, and faceless political operatives in every agency, power over regulatory efforts that was consistent neither with statute nor with the Constitution.”
The hearing was held in response to President Obama’s call for updating the Federal regulatory review process.  In one of his first orders, Mr. Obama withdrew the Bush Administration’s controversial Executive Order 13422 and also directed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop a set of recommendations for a new approach to regulatory review.  The new Executive Order would replace the Clinton-era Executive Order 12866, published on September 30, 1993 and currently in force, which provides guidance to agencies for submitting proposed regulations to OMB for pre-approval.
“The president’s action has rekindled debate on such basic issues as the role of science and economics in regulation, and the role of Congress and the White House in deciding how regulations are issued and the discretion that the underlying law allows the executive branch,“ said Miller. “Coming up with the right answer to these questions could be the difference between a government that follows the law—acting effectively and efficiently to protect the public's health and safety—and one that cripples the ability of its own Executive agencies to carry out the laws passed by Congress.”
For more information, including on the Committee’s work on OIRA, please visit the Committee’s website.

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