Cass Sunstein stepping down from OIRA

Friday - 8/3/2012, 10:43am EDT

Cass Sunstein is leaving his post as the administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Federal News Radio has confirmed. He intends to return to Harvard Law School, where he was the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law before coming to work for the Obama administration in 2009.

In a statement issued by the White House Friday, President Barack Obama credited Sunstein with driving a series of "historic accomplishments" in his 3-1/2 years at OIRA, including eliminating "millions of hours of paperwork burdens" for citizens and businesses.

"Cass has shepherded our review of existing rules to get rid of those that cost too much or no longer make sense, an effort that is already on track to save billions of dollars," Obama said, in the statement. "With these reforms and his tenacious promotion of cost-benefit analysis, his efforts will benefit Americans for years to come. I can't thank him enough for his friendship and for his years of exceptional service."

Politico first reported the news of Sunstein's departure.

Boris Bershteyn, OMB's general counsel since July 2011, will serve as acting OIRA administrator in Sunstein's place.

Sunstein oversaw regulatory'lookback'

In January, Sunstein spoke to The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp about new guidance his office put in place that required agencies to simplify rules with an easy-to-understand executive summary.

"Rules are often long and complex," said Sunstein. "Sometimes they're well over 1,000 pages. And, to figure out exactly what they're doing and what the public is supposed to respond to, both in the comment period when there's a proposed rule and when the rule is finalized, what they're supposed to do in response, is often a lot of work."

During his tenure, OIRA launched a dashboard at reginfo.gov to help the public track rules and regulations.

Sunstein also initiated a regulatory "lookback" across the government to "streamline, improve and sometimes eliminate existing rules," Acting OMB Director Jeff Zients wrote in a White House blog post. The review is on track to save $10 billion over five years and has cut back untold numbers of hours through reducing paperwork, Zeints added.

Zeints also lauded the outgoing administrator for his work on transparency and increasing public participation in the regulatory process.

Mixed praise from House Oversight chairman

But Sunstein's tenure as Obama's regulations czar drew mixed praise from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"While I'm disappointed that this administration has not made more substantial efforts to cut red tape and create jobs, outgoing Administrator Cass Sunstein appeared to recognize the harm overly burdensome regulations inflict on economic growth and job creation," Issa said in a statement, "although he was not able to stop the tsunami of regulations enacted by the Obama administration."

Sunstein graduated from Harvard in 1975 and went on to clerk for Justice Benjamin Kaplan, who sat on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. He also clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, before serving as a legal adviser in the Office of the Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. From 1981-2008, Sunstein was a University of Chicago Law School faculty member, when President Barack Obama was also a faculty member.

The Office of the Administrator of the OIRA was established in 1980 as part of the Paperwork Reduction Act. OIRA's responsibility is to review the federal government's information and develop governmentwide policies, such as setting statistical standards and information quality.

Sunstein's specialty is administrative law, regulatory policy and behavioral economics, and he has testified many times before Congress on those subjects.

(Federal News Radio's Jack Moore contributed to this report).

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