Sunstein Nomination Will Have to Wait

It’s all but certain that Cass Sunstein, President Obama's pick to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), will not be confirmed before the Senate recesses tonight or tomorrow. According to Congress Daily (subscription), Senate leaders will try to bring up votes on a few noncontroversial nominees, and Sunstein won’t be one of them.

Congress Daily writer Dan Friedman reports:

Senate aides said Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor nominated to head the OMB's influential Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is unlikely to be confirmed this week. Sunstein faced a hold by Senate Agriculture ranking member Saxby Chambliss and later by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Both expressed concern on behalf of the agricultural industry over Sunstein's calls for increased animal rights.

Cornyn said Monday he has dropped the hold, but Democratic aides said a new hold has been placed. 

So it is now evident that Republicans have targeted Sunstein with a rotating hold in order to stymie his nomination. It makes me wonder: Are Senate Republicans looking a gift horse in the mouth? Several conservatives have said that Sunstein is a more-than-reasonable choice for a Democratic president to nominate. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board has endorsed him.

Sunstein is no small government conservative (see his views on animal rights, for example). He won’t try to quash public protections at every turn, as the Bush administration’s OIRA heads sometimes seemed to do. But he does support some policies long favored by conservatives, including the use of cost-benefit analysis, a controversial tool in which difficult-to-count benefits, such as lives saved or injuries avoided, are weighed against compliance costs. Critics say the calculations bias cost-benefit analysis against regulation.

Meanwhile, the delay means that some of the Obama administration’s efforts to reform the regulatory process will have to wait. OMB Watch wrote about that issue in the latest Watcher, our biweekly e-newsletter. Check it out for more info: “While Sunstein Nomination Is Delayed, Regulatory Reform Waits.”

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