Former Agency Officials Bring Benefits to Regulatory Debate

Barring an unforeseen regulatory tsunami, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Howard Shelanski has appeared before Congress for the last time—at least in his current capacity.

Shelanski, like dozens of agency heads nominated by President Barack Obama, is expected to head for the exits just as the next president takes office in January 2017.

Howard Shelanski, center

Yesterday, Shelanski testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management. But after two hours of grilling about the use of agency guidance, the tone in the room grew decidedly softer.

“I want to express, as long as we’re still here, our great appreciation for your cooperation,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), the ranking member of the subcommittee. “And our interest in continuing this relationship in the next Congress.”

Heitkamp encouraged the OIRA administrator to “remain engaged in an intellectual and academic way” with the committee moving forward.

“Your advice is always welcome,” Heitkamp said. “And we look forward to working with you even if you aren’t in the capacity as head of OIRA.”

Indeed, the subcommittee has benefitted over the last several years by connecting with former OIRA heads, noted Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the subcommittee’s chairman.

“They have been extremely helpful to us multiple times in multiple conversations because they’re able to say the things as former head they couldn’t say as head,” Lankford said. “I do hope we maintain this relationship because you have in your head and from your experience a lot of things that would help the American people for a long time.”

Obama’s first OIRA administrator Cass Sunstein is now a professor at Harvard Law School, a prolific book author and a Bloomberg View columnist.

Susan Dudley served as OIRA administrator at the end of the George W. Bush administration and is now the director of the Regulatory Studies Center at the George Washington University.

Shelanski, who has not made any announcement about his position, simply thanked the senators.