House Republicans blast OIRA over late regulations report

Friday - 10/26/2012, 1:30pm EDT

The chairmen of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees have written to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) demanding to know why the public release of a report on upcoming federal regulations is behind schedule.

OIRA publishes the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions twice a year — in the spring and the fall. The report provides a snapshot of regulations that agencies are considering acting upon in the next year.

But the most recent report the agency has published is for fall 2011.

In their Oct. 25 letter to the agency, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairmen of the Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees, respectively, say OIRA has not been forthcoming about the expected publication date of the spring report.

The congressman have asked for a meeting next week with OIRA officials.

Agencies missed 'firm deadline'

Issa and Smith initially wrote to OIRA in September requesting information about the report as well as the expected publication of a final report to Congress detailing the cost and benefits of new regulations.

In response, OIRA provided only "vague excuses about the documents (sic) tardiness and a statement that raises questions about the executive branch agencies' ability to comply with OIRA deadlines," the lawmakers wrote in their most recent letter.

Guidance issued last March by OIRA Administrator Cass Sunstein (who has since left the office) set a "firm deadline" of April 13 for agencies to submit information to OIRA for the spring report.

"Apparently either agencies ignored OIRA's direction or the information is being withheld from Congress and the public," Issa and Smith wrote in the letter.

OMB told Federal News Radio agencies are still in the process of compiling the most recent information for an updated report but did not provide specifics about the reason for the delay.

Lawmakers question OIRA's motives

OIRA has apparently been late in posting previous versions of the reports. The fall 2011 report wasn't updated until last February, according to a letter from OIRA Associate Director for Legislative Affairs Kristen Sarri, although Issa's office said it was actually updated in January.

"This lack of transparency raises questions about the motives behind the administration's apparent reluctance to inform Congress and the public about its regulatory plans," the lawmakers wrote in their letter. "Due to the impending election, it does raise concerns that the administration is holding back this information for fear it will be met with dissatisfaction by the public, or even worse, perceived as breaking the administration's promise of regulatory reform."

President Barack Obama has pushed agencies to reduce the number of new regulations and to periodically review existing rules to weed out those deemed obsolete or overly burdensome, although observers say those efforts have netted mostly limited progress.

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