Stearns Holds Hearing on Obama Administration's Plans for Regulatory Reform

January 26, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations today concluded a hearing titled "The Views of the Administration on Regulatory Reform."  Mr. Cass Sunstein, Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, testified. 

The President issued a new Executive Order to review regulations with a focus on reducing their burden and on promoting job growth. Early in the hearing, Stearns expressed concern over what appears to be an amorphous standard of review articulated by the President.  Stearns read to Sunstein a portion of the Executive Order, "Where appropriate and permitted by law, each agency may consider (and discuss qualitatively) values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity, human dignity, fairness, and distribute impacts."   Noting the subjective nature of this language, Stearns pointed out that these standards would make it difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a rational cost/benefit analysis.

Next, Stearns noted that in April 2010 the Obama Administration had issued 190 economically significant regulations, those with an impact of $100 million or more, and that by December of 2010, the number had climbed to 224.  Sunstein was unsure of the exact number of new regulations.

Later in the hearing Stearns asked, "How many new government regulations have been enacted since your appointment?"   Sunstein responded, "About 500."  Stearns then asked, "How many new regulations will be necessary because of the new health care bill and the financial service bill?" Sunstein did not know the answer.

In the hearing, Sunstein confirmed that rules issued by independent agencies, such as the FCC, CFTC, CPSC, FERC, FTC, SEC, FDIC, the Federal Reserve, the NRC, among others, have apparently been placed beyond the purview of the President's review, and thus will not be affected by this initiative. "These agencies promulgate major rules that cost billions of dollars, yet are not subject to the President's Executive Order," concluded Stearns.  "In light of this, I plan to look into legislation to make sure that these agencies do not enact regulations that harm job creation. In addition, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will continue to hold these independent agencies accountable for the rules and regulations they promulgate." During the hearing, Sunstein also promised that any new regulations related to the massive new health care law will be subjected to review by OIRA, and promised to keep the subcommittee informed of the details of that review.

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