Seizing More Power

Some days, Junior reminds us of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor: “MORE POWER, UHNNN, UHNNN, UHNNN, UHNNN …”

Executive Order Expands Presidential Power Over Agencies
by Michelle Chen

Jan. 24 – The White House has quietly amended a key executive order to tighten the president’s grip on federal agencies that enforce health, safety and environmental protections.

The new order, issued last Thursday, gives the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) enhanced tools to oversee and interfere with federal regulations on everything from warning labels on medicines to safety standards for construction worksites.

In a statement responding to the executive order, the watchdog group Public Citizen called the initiative “an appalling arrogation of power,” charging the White House with claiming more executive will over federal agencies while circumventing congressional oversight.

The new powers build on a Clinton-era executive order that authorized OIRA to use cost-benefit analysis and other market-based calculations to evaluate rules and regulations proposed by federal agencies. Under that order, OIRA can compel executive-branch agencies, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service, to change proposed public-health, environmental and other regulations according to White House priorities.

The amended order enables the White House to oversee not only regulations, but also “guidance” documents that agencies issue to inform the public about how rules will be enforced – for example, an explanation of how a ruling in an environmental lawsuit will change the way polluters are regulated. OIRA can now scrutinize all “significant” guidance materials – defined according to criteria such as having the ability to “adversely affect” the economy in a “material way.”

Read the rest here.

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