Panel votes 8-4 to send the nomination to the full Senate.
A Senate committee on Tuesday advanced Paul Ray’s nomination to be Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 8-4, along party lines, to send the nomination to the full Senate. Ray was previously the office’s acting administrator following Neomi Rao replacing Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Ray has been a champion of the Trump administration's deregulatory agenda as the former deputy administrator and acting administrator of OIRA until President Trump tapped him to lead the office in October. Before coming to OIRA in July 2018, Ray had limited experience with regulatory affairs, having served as a corporate attorney for Sidley Austin LLP and as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
On Tuesday before the vote, some Democrats criticized the general counsel’s office at the Office of Management and Budget for withholding documents and information from his tenure at OIRA. This issue also came up during the hearing to discuss his nomination last month.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., stated that she voted “no” because of the lack of cooperation from the Office of General Counsel, not because of Ray’s qualifications. If the committee receives the documents from his time as associate administrator at OIRA, she said she will reconsider her position.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said in the past the committee has balanced political appointments and avoided politicization of regulatory affairs. “But this person in this role will be making decisions that affect the wellbeing and public health and quality of life and vigor of this economy and every aspect of Americans’ lives and I don’t think we should take it lightly,” she said.
Meanwhile, Republicans defended the nominee and the effort of the administration to provide information. “I do believe OIRA and staff tried to provide the type of information; the information requests were, I would say, overwhelming, particularly when you consider executive privilege, the deliberative process, these things are important concepts,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., committee chairman.
Based on his experience working with OIRA during his time as OMB director, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Ray “is brilliant” and “has good government experience for such a young person.” He added that he has worked with Congress to respond to many questions and, “It seems to me that the requests kind of increased as we got through the process.”
As of now, there is not a date for the full Senate vote.
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