House Passes Amendment on Executive Order Regarding Federal Agencies


On January 30th the New York Times ran the following piece:

Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation
Robert Pear, New York Times – January 30, 2007

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president's priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts.

The article included reactions from various parties:

Business groups welcomed the executive order, saying it had the potential to reduce what they saw as the burden of federal regulations. This burden is of great concern to many groups, including small businesses, that have given strong political and financial backing to Mr. Bush.

Consumer, labor and environmental groups denounced the executive order, saying it gave too much control to the White House and would hinder agencies' efforts to protect the public.

Chairman Henry Waxman of the Oversight Committee was quoted, “The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government's own impartial experts disagree. This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.” Now, with the Science Subcommittee on Oversight chaired by Rep. Brad Miller having reached the same conclusion through two oversight hearings, and on Wednesday night the House passed by voice vote an amendment from Miller and Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law which would prevent the White House from implementing the order, Executive Order 13422. The Amendment was to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations, which in turn passed the House last night, 240-179.

The Amendment reads in full:

AMENDMENT TO H.R. 2829, AS REPORTED
OFFERED BY MR. MILLER OF NORTH CAROLINA

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert
the following:

TITLE IX
ADDITIONAL GENERAL PROVISIONS
SEC. 901. None of the funds made available by this
Act may be used to implement Executive Order 13422.

From the Science Committee:

Miller Amendment Denies Funding for Bush Executive Order

(Washington, DC) The House last night passed legislation that would prevent the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the White House from implementing Executive Order 13422 issued by President Bush earlier this year, set to go into full effect July 24, 2007.

House Committee on Science and Technology Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law Linda Sanchez (D-CA) introduced an amendment which would prohibit the White House Office of Management (OMB) including OIRA from using funds appropriated in this year's Financial Services Appropriations Act to implement Executive Order 13422.

This action follows two oversight hearings held by Chairman Miller which concluded that under the Bush order, political appointees would be able to dictate health and safety decisions at federal agencies out of the shadows, even if impartial scientific experts decided otherwise. The Subcommittee concluded the Executive order was another avenue for special interests to slow down and prevent agencies from protecting the public.

“This amendment stops the provisions of the order that flagrantly claim for the President the power to rewrite almost every law Congress passes without answering to Congress or the American people,” said Chairman Miller.

The new executive order revised the rules for federal agencies to use a standard of “market failure,” which means determining whether private markets can correct a social problem like pollution on their own, before deciding if government should step in. A Bush political appointee in each agency would be empowered to stop agencies from even beginning a move towards regulation.

“Under the Bush order, political appointees could have overruled the professionals at each agency in secret with no accountability to anyone,” said Chairman Miller. “Public safety decisions are supposed to be made in the open, not in closed rooms on the basis of improper political considerations.”

Keith Olbermann and Richard Nixon’s former counsel John Dean discussed the Executive Order in January:

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