A new report from the liberal Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) says that the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) under the Obama Administration has made more changes to federal regulations-- including EPA rules-- than their Bush Administration predecessors. The CPR blog writes:
"The results were shocking even to us, long-time and admittedly jaded observers of OIRA’s one-way ratchet toward weakening public health and other protections.
Obama’s OIRA changes more rules than Bush’s did. The Obama Administration has further entrenched a regulatory system in which White House officials trump agency expertise with decisions based on raw politics. While the Bush Administration changed 64 percent of regulations under this process, the Obama Administration has changed 76 percent."
The CPR study tracked a decade’s worth of meetings between outside parties and the OIRA, the White House office that oversees federal agency rule making. NPR describes the OIRA as "the last hurdle that every proposed regulation must surmount before seeing the light of day" and "an office that most people have never heard of" that affects millions of Americans' lives.
The study delivers a harsh criticism of President Obama for meeting with industry representatives far more often than with public safety advocates.
"Despite his selection of experienced and well-respected appointees to lead health and safety agencies—most notably, Lisa Jackson at the EPA, Margaret Hamburg at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and David Michaels at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—President Obama has not made lasting commitments to substantially increase their budgets, has not supported them when they are politically attacked, and done next to nothing to press for updating the outmoded laws that hamper their efforts to police corporate misconduct," writes CPR President Rena Steinzor. "Worst of all, he has continued the Reagan and Bush tradition of enthroning OIRA as the final arbiter of whether public health and environmental protections see the light of day."
Michael Fitzpatrick, who has worked in the OIRA for the past three years, told NPR that his office is improving regulations, not gutting them.
"When you are dealing with the most complex questions of policy, it's to be expected that there are going to be questions raised and insights gleaned that cause an agency to say, 'You know what? We should make a change here or there. We can do this in an even better way.'"
John Graham, a Bush Administration official who ran the regulatory oversight office, told NPR that the finding's results could have to do with what he has noticed in his own experience, where Republican presidents tend to put people in charge of agencies who don't like new rules. These agencies in turn don't send a lot of regulations to the White House for review.
What makes things even more interesting is who has been running Obama's OIRA for the last two years, Cass Sunstein. Sunstein is an Obama University of Chicago faculty lounge bud who has said the conservative view of the constitution requires a "time machine," animals should have the right to sue humans, and has advocated a policy under which the government would “presume” someone has consented to having his or her organs removed for transplantation into someone else when they die unless that person has explicitly indicated that his or her organs should not be taken.
Sunstein is also author of the book "Nudge" and husband to Samantha Power. Power is the aid to the President and former journalist who wrote "A Problem From Hell: American and the Age of Genocide," once referred to Hillary Clinton as "a monster," has had a growing role in Obama's foreign policy circle, and is a leading proponent of the interventionist doctrine called "responsibility to protect."
The CPR believes the study on the OIRA "cements its reputation as an aggressive one-way ratchet. "