President Obama's new executive order calling for government agency regulatory review does not apply to independent agencies including the FCC and FTC.
Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee Oversight and Investigations
subcommittee, got witness Cass Sunstein to confirm that fact, but would not allow for elaboration, saying he wanted only yes or no answers.
That came in a subcommittee hearing Wednesday on the president's Jan. 18 executive order calling for retrospective reviews by government agencies of "rules that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them."
Rep. Diana DeGette, the first Democrat to ask questions of Sunstein, who is administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget, gave Sunstein a chance to follow up.
He explained that the president was following the lead of Republican President Ronald Reagan, who he said began the practice of not applying executive orders to independent regulatory agencies out of concern for overreaching executive branch authority. Sunstein said that practice had been followed by subsequent presidents. He conceded that OIRA did oversee information gathering, including from those independent agencies, per the Paperwork Reduction Act.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chair of the Energy & Commerce Committee, suggested the issue needed to be studied and perhaps some action taken. "No agencies should be exempt," he said.
Committee Republicans talked about the explosion of regulations under the Obama administration, while Sunstein countered that the number of regs was about the same as the last two years of the Bush
Ranking Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said it looked like the Republicans were repeating their 1995 "all-out assault" on regulations. He warned against painting the issue with too broad a brush. He said he believed in eliminating unnecessary regulations, but that regs also grow the economy and preserve the environment. He called myths the suggestion that regs destroy jobs and stymie the
Stearns' committee has already signaled it would be looking into FCC regulations, starting with the new network neurality rules. At the hearing, Upton said he had asked his committee members to track down burdensome regs, shine a light on them, and he would seek repeal.
How far beyond investigations and hearings the House Republicans can get given a Democratic Senate and President is problematic.
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