OMB Watch Statement on Cass Sunstein's Senate Confirmation

-For Immediate Release-
September 10, 2009

Matt Madia, Federal Regulatory Policy Analyst, (202) 683-4813,

OMB Watch Statement on Cass Sunstein's Senate Confirmation

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2009—On Sept. 10, the Senate confirmed Cass Sunstein as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA is a small but powerful office that reviews regulations and approves government forms and surveys that require the public to divulge information. The Senate confirmed Sunstein by a 57-40 vote.

Sunstein is a distinguished academic and author who served on the University of Chicago Law School faculty with President Barack Obama and then moved to Harvard Law School. He has been serving as a special adviser to Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) while awaiting confirmation.

Obama nominated Sunstein on April 20, and he was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on May 20. His confirmation was stalled by a series of Senate holds over objections to his views on animal rights and the Second Amendment as expressed in his academic writings. On Sept. 9, the Senate invoked cloture in a 63-35 vote, formally ending debate on the nomination. The cloture vote was needed to override the most recent hold.

Political interference, delay, and numerous procedural requirements have often limited federal agencies' ability to issue public protections. Obama pledged to reform the regulatory process and has initiated a series of policy reviews that may result in changes to the process. As OIRA administrator, Sunstein will largely be responsible for carrying out these reforms.

"We expect Cass Sunstein to oversee a regulatory system that puts the public first by allowing federal agencies to write and enforce the regulations that protect us in our everyday lives," said OMB Watch Executive Director Gary D. Bass.

Sunstein is an ardent supporter of the use of cost-benefit analysis, a controversial economic tool used in regulatory decision making. In his Senate hearing, he portrayed himself as a pragmatist without an ideological agenda. He promised a decision making framework for OIRA and agencies that relies on statutory direction, consistency with presidential policies, flexibility in the use of cost-benefit analysis, and pragmatic, evidence-based analyses of agencies' actions.

OMB Watch has been a staunch critic of the regulatory process, raising concerns about the bias against regulation, the length of time it takes to publish a final rule, the quality of regulations that have been published, the interference of OIRA in the substantive work of agencies, allowing politics to supersede science, and the lack of energy behind enforcement of existing rules. OMB Watch has urged the Obama administration to restructure the relationship between OIRA and rulemaking agencies, to respect the delegation of rulemaking authority given to agencies, to make the process more transparent and accessible to the public, to streamline the regulatory process, and to restore the importance of science in decision making. (Summaries of OMB Watch's recommendations for reforming the regulatory process are on our website at

Bass concluded, "We look forward to working with Sunstein and his OIRA staff to promote a regulatory agenda that actively works to protect the public."

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OMB Watch is a nonprofit government watchdog organization dedicated to promoting government accountability, citizen participation in public policy decisions, and the use of fiscal and regulatory policy to serve the public interest.

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