The White House’s Regulatory Office is About to Lose Its Interim Director
A career official is stepping up to fill the vacancy; Biden has yet to name a permanent leader for the office.
The interim leader of the small office at the center of the White House’s regulatory policy is leaving her post this week.
Sharon Block—tapped by President Biden to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on an acting basis—is leaving and career official Dominic Mancini will take over. Biden has yet to name a nominee to lead OIRA, which is housed under the Office of Management and Budget and responsible for reviewing regulations from the executive branch, approving government information collections, establishing government-wide statistical practices, and coordinating the federal policy on privacy rights.
“Under Sharon’s leadership, OIRA has played a crucial role in advancing the president’s agenda—from powering our historic economic recovery and combating the pandemic, to tackling the climate crisis and advancing equity,” said Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. “From day one, Sharon’s breadth of experience and wide-ranging expertise have been invaluable to OMB and the Biden administration, and we are grateful for her dedicated leadership and willingness to serve at this critical moment in our country’s history.”
Block leaving is a “real loss for the American public because it appears she was bringing much-needed cultural change to OIRA, where for over four decades a bitter contempt for regulatory safeguards has prevailed among the career staff,” said James Goodwin, senior policy analyst at the Center for Progressive Reform.
In a recent and “unprecedented” situation, OIRA pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its rule on greenhouse gas emissions for cars, which was “hard to envision OIRA ever taking such a step if Sharon were not at the helm,” Goodwin said. “I fear that if the Biden administration does not find a replacement in the mold of Sharon quickly, OIRA will once again become a regulatory graveyard where public safeguards are buried beneath political interference and corporate interest obstruction.”
Bridget Dooling, research professor at The George Washington University's Regulatory Studies Center and a former OIRA analyst, said, “Sharon provided a steady and well-respected hand to OIRA in Biden's first year” as “there are so many unique regulatory challenges” during a president’s first year.
“OIRA's deputy administrator is an excellent choice to serve as acting administrator,” Dooling continued. “Dom has the expertise and the relationships to ensure that OIRA continues to be a tremendous asset for the Biden administration.” Mancini has been at OIRA since December 2002 and before that worked at the Food and Drug Administration, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Block has had the titles of “acting administrator” and “associate administrator” under the Biden administration. With no nomination, there is a time limit for the acting position under the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act, but responsibilities can be delegated to others and “anything exclusive to the job can be done by the OMB director (including an acting one),” said Anne Joseph O’Connell, law professor at Stanford University and expert in the federal bureaucracy.
E&E News and Bloomberg Law previously reported the news of the personnel changes, which Government Executive confirmed separately.
The Biden presidency is over a year old and there still has not been a nominee to lead OIRA.
Under presidents Clinton through Trump, the Senate received the nomination for OIRA administrator between March and May of the president’s first year in office and the nominee was confirmed between May and September of the first year, according to a post by Dooling in the Yale Journal on Regulation.
The White House is also delayed, compared to recent predecessors, on getting an OMB director confirmed after the original nominee, Neera Tanden, had to withdraw last March.
On Tuesday the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Budget committees are holding hearings to consider Young’s nomination to be permanent OMB director and Nani Coloretti’s nomination to be deputy OMB director. Questions about the Biden administration’s regulatory priorities could come up during these hearings.