A draft of a House subcommittee report accuses White House regulatory advisers of having improper contacts with business groups during the review of federal regulations.
The report, which has yet to be approved by the members of the House Government Operation's manpower and housing subcommittee, charges that the administration's regulatory review decisions have been "tainted by potential conflicts of interest" and political considerations.
As a result, the report urges President Reagan to repeal his executive order that gives White House officials the power to review regulations before they are issued and to initiate reconsideration of existing regulation. Failing that, the report suggests that the Office of Management and Budget -- which serves as the review staff for the White House regulatory officials -- should change its procedures "to insure that their regulatory decisions are free of bias, openly arrived at, and based upon stated reasons."
Subcommittee staff officials said the subcommittee was to vote on the report last week. But Republican members, objecting to the report's findings and conclusions, left the subcommittee when the report was to be considered, preventing a quorum in which a vote could be taken, the staff members said.
Democratic staff members said that the majority Democrats have the votes to approve the report and will try again next week if they can get a quorum.
If released next week, the report could appear in the middle of an important congressional debate over a comprehensive regulatory reform measure that would give the OMB greater oversight authority over federal rules issued by all government agencies. The House is tentatively scheduled to consider such legislation next week.
OMB officials said they would not comment on the report because it had not yet been officially released.
The draft report cites several regulatory review actions by officials of the OMB and the Vice President's Office who hold key positions on the President's Task Force on Regulatory Relief, charging that they gave unfair consideration to business groups to the detriment of labor and consumer groups.
The report contends that one such instance involved a White House decision to review and consider the relaxation of a commerical diving standard issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration five years ago.
The report says that the task force targeted that rule for review after the counsel for the task force met with a group of diving contractors. "It is quite clear that this off-the-record meeting with parties that have a direct interest in the diving standard and the task force counsel was the genesis of the decision to target the commerical diving standard for review," the report says.
Labor groups that supported the standard only learned of the administration's action in the newspapers and were kept in the dark for several months about why it had been targeted, despite a letter requesting an explanation, the report adds. "It is this type of one-sided access that offends the notion of fairness which should be the basis for governmental action," the report says.