Senate panel to discuss ‘regulatory paralysis’

A new Senate oversight panel plans to hold its first-ever hearing on Thursday to discuss the federal regulation-review process.

The Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action will examine the impacts of “regulatory paralysis,” with lawmakers likely to focus on a review backlog that has prevented the implementation of new rules for years in some cases.

Subcommittee Chairman Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and other senators, including two Republicans, raised concerns about the delays in a letter last month to Sylvia Burwell, the recently confirmed head of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

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(Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The lawmakers urged Burwell to address the issue with “prompt action,” adding that “with Congress often paralyzed by gridlock, the public is depending on the federal agencies to protect public health and welfare.”

A division of the White House budget office reviews draft regulations to estimate their potential costs and benefits, as well as to consider alternatives, before agencies implement them.

The senators said in their letter that the review office frequently puts draft regulations on hold without explaining its concerns. “If there are problems with rules or guidance submitted by an agency, those problems should be aired and addressed, not kept hidden behind closed doors,” the letter said.

Under an executive order issued by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and later reaffirmed by President Obama, the review office is supposed to finish its reviews within a 90-day timeframe, but the process often stretches on for more than a year with stakeholders in limbo.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Eric Yoder · July 31, 2013