The Volokh Conspiracy

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The Biden Administration Finally Taps a Regulatory Czar

Noted environmental law scholar Richard Revesz will be nominated to head the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs


Yesterday, the White House announced that President Biden will nominate Professor Richard Revesz to be Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the White House Office of Management and Budget, a position often referred to as "regulatory czar." It is, by some accounts, the most government important job you may may not have heard of before.

This is a long-awaited, and quite significant, announcement.  OIRA is the White House office that oversees the development and promulgation of new federal regulations and ensures that federal agencies comply with applicable Executive Orders on the issuance of regulations. Among other things, OIRA makes sure agencies conduct adequate cost-benefit analyses and consider the likely consequences of proposed regulations, and that agency regulations are as consistent with administration policy as relevant statutes allow.

Given OIRA's responsibilities, Revesz was always an obvious choice for this position. As the former Dean of the NYU School of Law and Director of the American Law Institute, he is immensely well respected, and much of his scholarship has honed in on issues central to OIRA's responsibilities. Among other things, he co-authored two books making a progressive defense of cost-benefit analysis (which I reviewed here and here), and he founded NYU's Institute for Policy Integrity, which focuses on many regulatory process issues and hosts conferences and produces reports buttressing the analytical case for more aggressive federal environmental regulations.

Some preliminary news reports suggest the Revesz nomination represents a triumph of the "establishment" over the progressive wing of the Democratic party. The Biden Administration had apparently considered another legal academic for the position, Vanderbilt law professor Ganesh Sitaraman, a former Elizabeth Warren staffer who was favored by progressives, but who could not be assured of attracting the support of all fifty Democratic Senators. It seems efforts to corral fifty votes for a potential Sitaraman nomination were one reason for the delay.

I was hardly privy to any of the internal debates, but I would think progressive organizations should be happy with the Revesz pick. If the goal is to have an OIRA administrator who supports an aggressive regulatory agenda, but will also force agencies to conduct rigorous analyses and bulletproof new rules from legal challenges, it would be hard to do better. Indeed, I suspect that if Revesz had been in the position a year ago, some Biden Administration efforts might have fared better in court. One thing is for sure, those hoping to challenge Biden Administration regulations will have a harder time once Revesz is confirmed.