House Balks at Bush Order for New Powers
Tuesday, July 3, 2007; 8:16 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Bush this month is giving an obscure White House office new powers over regulations affecting health, worker safety and the environment. Calling it a power grab, Democrats running Congress are intent on stopping him.
The House voted last week to prohibit the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from spending federal money on Executive Order 13422, signed by Bush last January and due to take effect July 24.
The order requires federal officials to show that private companies, people or institutions failed to address a problem before agencies can write regulations to tackle it. It also gives political appointees greater authority over how the regulations are written.
The House measure "stops this president or any president from seizing the power to rewrite almost every law that Congress passes, laws that protect public health, the environment, safety, civil rights, privacy and on and on," said Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., its sponsor.
"OIRA has quietly grown into the most powerful regulatory agency in Washington," the House Science investigations subcommittee, chaired by Miller, said in a report in April.
The administration contends Bush's order merely strengthens a similar directive issued by President Clinton in 1993 giving the White House budget office oversight of federal agency rulemaking.
Andrea Wuebker, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, which manages the White House regulatory affairs office, said the order, along with an OMB good guidance bulletin, "will help increase the quality, accountability and transparency of agency guidance documents."
Bush's executive order:
_Requires agencies to identify "market failures," where the private sector fell short in dealing with a problem, as a factor in proposing a rule. The White House regulatory affairs office is given authority to assess those conclusions.
_States that no rulemaking can go forward without the approval of an agency's Regulatory Policy Office, to be headed by a presidential appointee.
_Directs each agency to provide an estimate of costs and benefits of regulations.
_Requires agencies to inform the White House regulatory affairs office of proposed significant guidance documents on complying with rules. Critics say this will create a new bottleneck delaying the issuance of guidelines needed to comply with federal regulations.