A New Regulatory Czar?

OMB Watch is reporting that the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Chaired by Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) will soon hold a confirmation hearing on Susan E. Dudley. nominated to be Administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The office, part of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), oversees all of the Administration’s regulatory (or anti-regulatory) activities.

There’s lot’s more information on Ms. Dudley, and on OMB’s latest shenanigans, at OMB Watch’s website Dudley Watch. Genevieve Smith, at the American Prospect Online, dubbed Ms. Dudley “The Anti-Regulator,” in a profile you had better read if the rumors are true:

Dudley’s public comments written during her time at Mercatus [a free market policy advocacy group] reveal a hostility towards environmental, health, and safety regulations that is ideological and virtually total. As Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Action has said, “Susan Dudley makes John Graham [previous head of OIRA] look like Ralph Nader.” Laura MacCleery of Public Citizen’s CongressWatch, who helped spearhead the campaign against Graham’s nomination, put the matter even more bluntly: “John Graham has an anti-regulatory bias, but Susan Dudley is an anti-regulatory crusader. This is like trading in a scalpel for a sledge hammer.”


President Bush first nominated Ms. Dudley to head OIRA in 2006, but thankfully the nomination died in committee. Last November, with the Senate still under Republican leadership, the committee had a confirmation hearing that went quite badly for the nominee; Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) who chaired the committee at the time, decided not to even put the nomination to a vote. Much of the credit for stopping the nomination then goes to Public Citizen and OMB Watch, who provided chapter and verse on the nominee’s positions in The Cost Is Too High: How Susan Dudley Threatens Public Protections.

Undeterred, President Bush renominated Ms. Dudley in January 2007, and gave her a senior (but not Senate confirmed) advisory position at the White House. Some commentators saw her philosophy, if not her actual fingerprints, on the recent Executive Order that mandated agencies show how regulations address specific market failures. It was expected she would be given a recess appointment.

It is difficult to say why the hearing is being planned. But should it occur, this will be a terrific venue for the Senate to examine the White House’s efforts to cripple our system of public protections.

David Michaels heads the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP) and is Professor and Associate Chairman in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.