A key appointee by the Trump Administration was confirmed by the Senate Monday. Neomi Rao will head up the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The role will be especially important, as President Trump has taken action to reduce what he considers over regulation within the government.
Rao was approved in a 54-41 vote. She is the founder of the Center for Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University, where she teaches constitutional law. The center has previously been linked to the Charles Koch Foundation, a relationship that has been used by Democrats to criticize Rao’s nomination and appointment.
One of the Democrats voting against Rao was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
"If confirmed, professor Rao will be perfectly positioned to put her theories into practice," Warren said on Monday. "She will head the Trump administration's efforts to toss out the rules that big businesses don't like."
When federal agencies put together major new regulations, they are required to conduct cost-benefit analyses. OIRA essentially checks their math - but that’s not all that’s awaiting Rao. She will also now be tasked with navigating Trump’s executive order that says for every new regulation, agencies have to scrap two old ones.
“There’s a lot of very hard questions to answer in terms of how that system is going to work and whether it’s just going to effectively amount to a regulatory moratorium where they are just not putting out new rules,” said Philip Wallach, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
The rule-making process is long and tedious, resulting in about 60 to 80 major regulations each year. Some, like Kent Lassman, who runs the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, are excited that Rao is taking over OIRA.
“The core of her work and her career and her scholarship has been on political accountability and that’s something I think is horribly missing today in our regulatory processes,” he said.
Others like Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a progressive public interest advocacy group, are less excited.
“I am worried that this will be the agency that really drives forward Trump’s anti-regulatory zeal. Which means, in practice, making America less safe, less healthy, more open to corporate crime and abuse,” said Weissman.
With all the attention on regulations, the once obscure OIRA is set to take center stage.