Professor Neomi Rao, nominated to lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), on June 7 affirmed her commitment to minimize regulatory burden. At a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) hearing, she supported maintaining the consistency of OIRA’s statutory principles and empirical evaluation of existing or proposed regulations.
OIRA manages the federal rulemaking process through regulatory review and coordination of administrative policy. If confirmed, Rao would be charged with implementing a recent Executive Order charging federal agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every new regulation enacted. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) inquired as to how the Executive Order would be implemented. Referring to a 2007 Federal Demonstration Partnership survey which reported that federally-funded research faculty nationwide spend 42 percent of their time on administrative requirements, Johnson also asked what Rao intended to do to reduce regulatory burden on academic research. Rao said that OIRA will follow OMB guidelines and partner with federal agencies to identify and eliminate inefficient, redundant, or overly burdensome rules based on retrospective cost-benefit analyses.
During a similar line of questioning introduced by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Dr. Rao affirmed her support of the bipartisan Senate Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 (RAA), a bill that Portman and Heitkamp co-sponsored. She backs RAA provisions mandating that proposed regulations undergo review of efficacy, value, and monetary cost prior to implementation. Rao also agreed that indirect costs, which capture qualitative and non-monetary outcomes, should be considered in cost-benefit assessments. Noting that deregulation necessitates the same level of scrutiny as enacting new rules, she acknowledged the importance of retrospective review as an important aspect of reducing administrative burden.
Throughout the hearing, Rao’s academic and professional accomplishments were acknowledged by multiple senators. Presently, she teaches constitutional and administrative law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, where she founded the Center for Study of the Administrative State. Prior to her academic tenure, she was special counsel for the Office of the White House Council under President George W. Bush and she also worked as a law and policy consultant for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rao also completed clerkships with the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals.
The Senate HSGAC approved Rao’s nomination by a vote of 11-4 on June 21. It is not clear at this time when the full Senate will consider Rao, although she is expected to be confirmed.