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White House Announces Acting Regulatory Chief

Former Labor Department counselor Paul Ray will lead the administration’s ambitious deregulation effort, at least temporarily.

The White House budget office on Tuesday tweeted a confirmation of recent news reports that Paul Ray, the deputy administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is temporarily leading the agency in charge of the Trump administration’s ambitious deregulation effort.

Ray, previously a counselor to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, takes over for Neomi Rao, who on March 13 was confirmed by the Senate as a judge on the  U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia.

The Office of Management and Budget’s tweet said Ray’s new duties began on March 18. An OMB spokesman declined to comment on whom President Trump might nominate to succeed Rao permanently.

For months, the leading candidate was thought to be Paul Noe, an OIRA veteran now vice president of public policy at the American Forest and Paper Association. But two weeks ago he withdrew himself from consideration, telling Bloomberg Government, “While I admire the great work that OIRA does, this is not the right time for me and my family.”

Ray, who came over to OIRA from the Labor Department last July, is a corporate attorney with limited experience in regulatory affairs. In the 11 years since he graduated from Hillsdale College, he earned his law degree in 2011 at Harvard University, clerked for the Second Circuit and for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, and was hired as an associate at the Washington office of the Sidley Austin law firm.

In four years there, his clients included the American Chemistry Council, American Forest and Paper Association, National Association of Manufacturers, Portland Cement Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as noted in a Monday blog post by University of California at Berkeley law professor Dan Farber.

“Regardless of how talented Ray may be, you don’t pick someone that junior and inexperienced for a government job that you consider really important,” Farber wrote. “Rather, the appointment seems to be a sign that OIRA just isn’t taken very seriously by this administration.”