OMB Takes Heat From Both Sides

Outgoing regulatory chief is blasted from the left and right.

President Obama’s regulatory chief is taking some hits from the right and left as he gives up a Washington hot seat for the groves of academia.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, published a blast at the Obama team’s “three years of bureaucratic excess” in Friday's Wall Street Journal. In a piece titled, “The Regulatory Cliff is Nearly as Steep as the Fiscal One,” the former budget director for President George W. Bush accused the administration of “quietly postponing several multibillion-dollar regulations until after the November election.

“Those delayed rules, together with more than 130 unfinished mandates under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law, could significantly increase the regulatory drag on our economy in 2013,” Portman wrote.

His examples included a coming Labor Department rule beefing up monitoring of businesses offering commission-based investment guidance for retirees, as well the Environmental Protection Agency’s looming rule imposing new requirements on manufacturers to protect the ozone.

The Obama team, not surprisingly, takes issue with Portman's criticism. "The administration has a strong record of using rigorous cost benefit analysis to implement smart, sensible steps that protect public health, welfare and safety while ensuring they are guided by the president’s priority of supporting economic growth and promoting job creation, competitiveness, and innovation," said an OMB spokeswoman. "That record includes billions of dollars in regulatory benefits, including not only extraordinary economic savings for businesses and consumers, but also thousands of deaths prevented and hundreds of thousands of illnesses and accidents avoided each year. President Obama’s unprecedented review of rules already on the books is on track to remove billions of dollars of regulatory costs in the near term, with far greater savings to come."

Earlier in the week, Sunstein’s legacy of a regulatory “look-back” drew a critique from the director of regulatory policy at the nonprofit OMBWatch, Randy Rabinowitz. He accused the Obama team of  fixing a problem that didn’t really exist. “The real problem with retrospective review of rules is that it prevents agencies from moving forward to protect the public from new and unregulated hazards,” Rabinowitz wrote.

“By constantly looking backwards, and spending limited resources on streamlining old rules, agencies will have too little time to look forward and plan future rulemakings to protect the public," he added. "Small wonder, then, that business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business praised Sunstein’s tenure, and public interest groups are happy to see him go.”

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