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Rao confirmed as Trump Administration’s ‘regulatory czar’

Joe Mont | July 12, 2017

A key administration post for President Trump’s deregulatory agenda is now in place. On July 10, the U.S. Senate confirmed Neomi Rao as administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs' Office of Management and Budget.

OIRA is a statutory part of the Office of Management and Budget within the Executive Office of the President. It is the government’s central authority for the review of Executive Branch regulations.

The confirmation vote was 54-41, with Democrats in opposition. Six senators who caucus with the Democrats did, however, vote in approovall. They include: Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.); Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.); Angus King (I-Maine); Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.); Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.); and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

In addition to reviewing drafts of proposed and final regulations under a variety of statutory and Executive Order authorities, OIRA also coordinates retrospective reviews of regulations under, reviews and approves government collections of information from the public under the Paperwork Reduction Act, and oversees the implementation of government-wide policies.

Because of the tremendous power OIRA has in approving, denying, and eliminating government rulemaking, Rao’s post is often referred to as the nation’s “regulatory czar.” The role will likely be in the spotlight, given president Trump’s pledge to scale back and repeal at least 75 percent of existing regulations.

Rao is a professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, where she founded and directs the Center for the Study of the Administrative State.  Her research and teaching focuses on constitutional and administrative law. 

Currently a public member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, Rao has previously served in all three branches of the federal government.  She served as Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush; counsel for nominations and constitutional law to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary; and law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. She practiced public international law and arbitration at Clifford Chance in London. Rao received her JD with high honors from the University of Chicago and her BA from Yale University.

“I applaud my colleagues in the Senate for confirming Professor Rao’s nomination,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We can all agree that federal regulations should achieve their aim without imposing unnecessary costs on the country’s economy and job creators. I look forward to working with Professor Rao to reduce the burden of regulations—by our best estimates as high as $2 trillion a year —that weigh on the American economy.”

Rao was advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to the Senate floor for confirmation on June 21, 2017.Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was, as expected, a vote against Rao. “Neomi Rao will help the Trump Administration toss out rules big business doesn’t like,” she said in a statement. “

“If big business can’t weaken or kill bills that they don’t like in Congress, they turn their attention to the agencies tasked with implementing those laws,” she added. “One of those agencies is OIRA, a little-known but immensely powerful office, that must sign off on all economically-significant federal rules.”

Rao gave a glimpse of her thought process and political leanings on Center for the Study of the Administrative State. 

“Problems of administrative accountability occur in all three branches of the federal government,” she wrote. “Congress often delegates open-ended authority to agencies, but manages waivers and exemptions for its favored groups. Executive agencies often seize broad authority from open-ended statutes, regulating through informal mechanisms, and imposing requirements through consent decrees and litigation threats.”

“In practice, compliance with regulatory requirements imposes heavy economic, political, and social costs on individuals and businesses,” she added.