Senate Panel: Health and Safety Regs Vanish in Black Hole of OMB

November 6, 2013

If you are a lobbyist for an industry whose pollution endangers public health, and you want to kill regulations that might protect people, but quietly, go to OMB. It is the black hole of environmental health and safety regs. The WatchDog has been telling this story for a decade.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is an arm of the White House ostensibly meant to give the President a grip on the reins of unruly agencies. But it has served as a way to sandbag and subvert public health regs at the behest of business groups who stand to profit by short-circuiting open legal procedures meant to ensure government integrity.

The story was told again October 25, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action, chaired by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). A panel explained to Hill staff how OMB uses — or misuses — its authority to sandbag regs. Under Executive Order 12866, OMB has 120 days to review agency-proposed regulations before they are issued. As an enforcer within the executive branch, OMB acts as a stickler prodding agencies to comply with Executive Orders. But OMB itself flouts and ignores the rules it holds others to. Of its most recent 280 deadlines, OMB missed 171 (or 60 percent), Robert Weissman of Public Citizen told the audience. The session was reported by Katie Weatherford of the Center for Effective Government.

Panelists said that OMB delay of regulations was an effective veto.