Advocacy groups are angry over President Trump’s nomination last week of Neomi Rao to head up the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), while a former OIRA chief is applauding the choice.

What OIRA does

The agency, a little-known part of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is tasked with reviewing regulations proposed by federal agencies. The OIRA administrator will have the power to reject rules that are inconsistent with Trump’s goal of eliminating regulations that are burdensome on business – a category that 75 percent of all federal regulations fall into, according to Trump.

Rao, an expert in constitutional and administrative law, is currently director of the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University, which is heavily funded by the Koch brothers, according to Polluterwatch.

Constitutional concerns

Rao’s writings “evince a profound hostility to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and to independent regulatory agencies more generally,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “Remarkably, and disturbingly, in testimony she has complained that the CFPB is charged with the duty to ensure that “consumers are protected from unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices and from discrimination” – arguing that a broad charge of protecting consumers from getting ripped off by predatory institutions raises constitutional concerns.”

Weissman said the OIRA administrator “has a duty to ensure implementation of the laws of the land, which require government agencies to issue new rules to advance their missions, not to give corporations a free hand to pollute and pilfer, poison and profiteer,” although he conceded OIRA has often been a “major chokepoint” in the regulatory process due to political interference, among other factors.

A "sharp legal mind"

Susan Dudley, who served as OIRA administrator under the Bush administration, said Rao has a “sharp legal mind” and would be able to manage the competing demands of regulatory policy.”

Weissman, however, said the U.S. Senate should reject Rao’s nomination “unless she can demonstrate a readiness to comply with the law and facilitate adoption of regulations to protect consumers, workers and our environment.”