Peters, Colleagues Call for Transparency from White House Regulatory Office Nominee

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, lead his committee colleagues in calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to cooperate with Congressional records requests regarding the nomination of Paul J. Ray to be Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Mr. Ray served as Acting Administrator of OIRA from March of this year until he was formally nominated to the position last month. In a letter addressed to Acting OMB Director Russell Vought, the Senators raised serious concerns about Mr. Ray’s failure to adequately respond to multiple inquiries related to his tenure at OIRA and provide information that is critical to a full and fair evaluation of Mr. Ray’s record and qualifications for the position.

Joining Peters in sending the letter were U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

“In the course of this Committee’s standard procedures for vetting nominees, we have asked Mr. Ray to provide us with information related to his recent tenure at OIRA. Unfortunately, we have not received adequate responses to many of our requests,” the Senators wrote. “Given the nominee’s recent experience serving in the role to which he has been nominated on an acting basis, information and documents pertaining to his tenure at OIRA are not only directly relevant, but also necessary, for this Committee to thoroughly assess his nomination.”

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is the agency within the Office of Management and Budget responsible for reviewing all significant regulatory efforts. The OIRA Administrator is responsible for overseeing the agency’s review of draft, proposed and final regulations, managing the interagency review process, and ensuring agency rules are supported by rigorous, evidence-based cost-benefit analyses.

Text of the letters is copied below and available here:

November 26, 2019

 

Dear Acting Director Vought,

As you know, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is currently considering the President’s nomination of Paul J. Ray to be Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Constitution requires that the President’s choices for key positions receive the advice and consent of the Senate. To fulfill this constitutional responsibility, we have sought to fully and fairly evaluate Mr. Ray’s record and qualifications for this important position. 

As you know, OIRA plays the central role in establishing government-wide regulatory policy and information collection policies. As Administrator, Mr. Ray’s responsibilities would include overseeing OIRA’s review of draft proposed and final regulations, managing the interagency review process, and ensuring agency rules are supported by rigorous, evidence-based cost-benefit analyses.

Mr. Ray has been an employee of OMB since June 2018 and – until last month – he served in top leadership positions at OIRA. He served as the Associate Administrator – OIRA’s second-in-command – from June 2018 until March 2019, and as Acting OIRA Administrator from March 2019 until his formal nomination last month.

In the course of this Committee’s standard procedures for vetting nominees, we have asked Mr. Ray to provide us with information related to his recent tenure at OIRA. Unfortunately, we have not received adequate responses to many of our requests. In many instances, Mr. Ray has indicated that information and documents the Committee has requested are being withheld at the instruction of OMB’s Office of General Counsel. The nominee has cited “the Executive Branch’s longstanding interests in protecting the confidentiality in the deliberative process” as the basis for refusing to answer many of our requests. While we understand that there may be circumstances under which withholding or redacting particularized content could be justified, neither the nominee nor OMB has provided a sufficient justification for failing to comply with the Committee’s requests.

Given the nominee’s recent experience serving in the role to which he has been nominated on an acting basis, information and documents pertaining to his tenure at OIRA are not only directly relevant, but also necessary, for this Committee to thoroughly assess his nomination.

We urge you to direct Mr. Ray – and OMB’s Office of General Counsel, as appropriate – to promptly provide us with complete responses to the outstanding requests made to the nominee in the Committee’s November 1, 2019 Supplemental Pre-hearing Questionnaire.

We respectfully request full cooperation no later than Monday December 2, 2019 in order to ensure the Committee has the opportunity to review Mr. Ray’s responses in advance of the hearing on his nomination.

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