Donald Trump

Trump's Pick for 'Regulatory Czar' Ain't Bad

Neomi Rao wants to keep an eye on the regulators.

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Cutting Red Tape
U.K. Cabinet Office / Wikipedia

Neomi Rao, the president's pick to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), went before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs today. Her testimony suggests that she'll bring a much-needed seriousness and professionalism to her office—and to an administration that til now has pursued deregulation in a rather haphazard and erratic way.

OIRA is responsible for vetting regulations to prevent duplication or contradiction and to ensure that the rules are in line with legislative intent. Rao repeated throughout the hearing that she wants to bring stronger oversight to independent agencies, and that deregulation requires cost-benefit analysis to ensure that it actually reduces the regulatory footprint.

This squares with what Rao has advocated as a legal scholar at George Mason University's Center for the Study of the Administrative State, which she founded. She has harshly criticized the excessive delegation of powers to independent agencies, a practice that she says undermines "individual liberty by allowing for the expansion of the administrative state outside the Constitution's requirements for accountability."

For Rao, handing over lawmaking authority to organizations like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau—whose abuses and unaccountability Reason highlighted here—doesn't just allow lawmaking to occur outside the Constitution's constraints on the legislative branch. It encourages individual lawmakers to seek policy changes by influencing these agencies. "Delegation gives members a way to exercise power and control outside the cumbersome and difficult process of enacting legislation," Rao wrote in a 2015 article.

Rao also contends that these agencies unconstitutionally limit the executive branch's independence by depriving the president of the power to remove agency heads. And as she mentioned in her committee hearing, she wants to subject rules made by these agencies to cost-benefit analysis—a process from which they are currently exempt.

Surprisingly, both Democrats and Republicans at today's committee hearing reacted supportively to Rao's views. Sen. Heitkamp (D–S.D.) said she looked forward to working with Rao on subjecting independent agencies to more scrutiny and on abolishing unnecessary rules. More than one former head of OIRA agrees. "Her legal scholarship and expertise will be invaluable as she works to make sure agencies respect the boundaries of delegated authority," said Susan Dudley, OIRA chief under George W. Bush. Clinton-era OIRA director Sally Katzen called her "clearly a smart and qualified choice to fill the post."

The only major critiques of Rao have come from activists opposed to virtually any scrutiny of the government's regulatory powers. Robert Weissmen, the president of Public Citizen, warned in April that Rao might "give corporations a free hand to pollute and pilfer, poison and profiteer." The Daily Kos called her nomination "the end of everything good."

In fact, Rao has written that "Congress retains wide latitude to establish administrative agencies and create regulatory duties." She's far from a firebreathing anti-government warrior, but she seems likely to display a constitutionally grounded approach to regulatory oversight. As Reason's Matt Welch has pointed out, that might be the best libertarians can hope for right now:

With the Trump presidency in an ongoing state of crisis management, and his legislative agenda foundering at best, these largely under-the-radar regulatory slowdowns and positive reforms may prove to be the most tangibly useful aspects of his White House tenure.

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  1. So Trump couldn’t find a real American to do the job and out-sourced it to an Indian? Sad.

  2. The Daily Kos called her nomination “the end of everything good.”

    Hasn’t that already happened twice this month?

    1. Good keeps popping up. Trump keeps ending it. Keep up.

  3. Robert Weissmen, the president of Public Citizen, warned in April that Rao might “give corporations a free hand to pollute and pilfer, poison and profiteer.”

    In other words: “I don’t have any legitimate, specific criticisms of Rao, but I am good at coming up with catchy, alliterative attacks on people who oppose the all-powerful state.”

    1. He sounds like a positively petulant pontificating pissant.

      1. Nice alliteration, that.

    2. nattering nabobs of something something

    3. Isn’t Rao a Kryptonian name? Isn’t Trump against illegal aliens?

    4. Some guy is obviously unable to read further into Public Citizen’s documentation of Rao’s background and statements.
      Some guy is just offering single-statement literary analysis.

  4. Free countries don’t have czars.

    1. Nice quip. Is the definition of “free” free to permit radium to be used as an illuminator? Or perhaps “free” means free to permit the Cuyhoga river operate as a burning river? Does it permit Thalidomide to be freely prescribed to calm pregnant women? Does it permit lead paint and asbestos to be used “freely”? Does it permit opiods to be freely prescribed? Does it permit natural gas to choke a big part of Los Angeles?

      If this and thousands of other such “freedoms”, please give me a czar.

  5. RE: Trump’s Pick for ‘Regulatory Czar’ Ain’t Bad
    Neomi Rao wants to keep an eye on the regulators.

    Oh, goody-goody gumdrops!
    That’s what America needs.
    Another regulator.

    1. Yeah, give us a few more Bernie Madoffs and WorldComs and Enrons and dead miners, dead chemical and industrial workers, millions of drivers, airplane passengers, etc., etc.
      More regulators, naw.

  6. Ever wonder why, for example, a larger (by world sales) and more sophisticated industrial power, Germany, doesn’t have a problem with much greater regulation than exists here?

    Well, here’s why: Being able to produce without wrecking the environment is viewed by German industry as a business opportunity to lead in technology for producing the same good without polluting.

    When all these other countries (such as the US and China) start to choke on their industries waste and pollution, German companies will be there to sell them the technology to do so without.

    American businesses just whine and want to compete in yesterday’s world… or with China.

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