Senators Thompson and Levin Urge Confirmation of Dr. John Graham as OIRA Administrator

Washington – U.S. Senators Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan) today issued the following statement in support of Dr. John Graham, nominee for Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB):

The Senate is about to consider the nomination of Dr. John Graham to oversee the Administration’s regulatory policy as the head of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). This position has always been subject to controversy, because the OIRA Administrator sits at the center of every major regulatory debate in this country, from drinking water standards to auto safety to sulphur emissions. We support Dr. Graham’s nomination to this position because we believe he will carry out the duties of the office in a fair and responsible manner, and because we believe he understands the value of meaningful and competent cost-benefit analysis in deciding how to best use society’s resources.

As Cass Sunstein, a respected professor at the University of Chicago Law School, has said:

        “John Graham . . . cannot be pigeonholed as ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’; on regulatory issues, he’s unpredictable in the best sense. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if, in some settings, he turned out to be a vigorous voice for aggressive government regulation. In fact, that’s exactly what I would expect. When he questions regulations, it is because he thinks we can use our resources in better ways; and on this issue, he stands as one of the most important researchers, and most promising public servants, in the nation.”

As a professor of decision sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health and the founder of Harvard’s Center for Risk Analysis, Dr. Graham has devoted his career to identifying effective ways to save lives, prevent injuries and diseases, and protect the environment. In addition to his contributions as a scholar and teacher, Dr. Graham has long been a strong advocate of improving government regulation. Dr. Graham was cited in a pro-airbag decision by the Supreme Court in 1983. He was a pioneer in bringing risk analysis to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. In 1991, Surgeon General Antonia Novello recognized Dr. Graham for his service in the development of a national agenda for the field of injury prevention. In 1996, Dr. Graham worked closely with Congress on the Safe Drinking Water Act, a life-saving law that passed the Senate 98 to 0. And he has supported legislation we proposed to improve regulatory decisions.

We have received testimonials attesting to the credentials and integrity of Dr. Graham from hundreds of recognized authorities in environmental policy, health policy, and related fields. Former EPA Administrator William Reilly said that John Graham has “impressed me with his rigor, fair-mindedness and integrity.” Dr. Louis Sullivan, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, said “Dr. Graham is superbly qualified to be the OIRA Administrator.” Former OIRA Administrators from both Democratic and Republican Administrations conveyed their confidence that John Graham “is not an ‘opponent’ of all regulation but rather is deeply committed to seeing that regulation serves broad public purposes as effectively as possible.” Dr. Robert Litan, a respected expert on regulatory policy at the Brookings Institution, said Dr. Graham “is the most qualified person ever nominated for the job” of OIRA Administrator. A letter of support by about 100 scholars in environmental and health policy and related fields observed:

        “It is very regrettable that some interest groups that disagree with John’s views on the merits of particular issues have chosen to impugn his integrity by implying that his views are for sale rather than confronting the merits of his arguments. Dialogue about public policy should be conducted at a higher level.”

There has been a lot of misinformation swirling around this nomination. Dr. Graham’s extensive writings have been misquoted more than once, and space does not permit a full response. We’ll leave it at this:

        ! John Graham is not anti-regulation. Like other challenging thinkers — including Justice Stephen Breyer and distinguished groups organized by the Carnegie Commission and the National Academy of Public Administration — he has argued that better informed decisions could lead to greater environmental, health and safety protection at less cost.

        ! John Graham is not anti-environment. He and his colleagues have produced scholarship that has backed a wide range of environmental policies, including toxic pollution control at coke plants; the phase-out of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer; and low-sulphur diesel fuel requirements. Dr. Graham also has supported new environmental policies to address indoor air pollution and tax credits for fuel-efficient vehicles.

        ! Charges that John Graham or the Harvard Center has allowed corporate funding to influence scientific conclusions are unfounded. Frank Cross, Professor of Business and Law at the University of Texas, said “this criticism is unwarranted, unfair and inconsistent with the clear pattern and practice of most (if not all) similarly situated research centers.” We found that the Harvard Center’s policies on funding, disclosure and conflicts of interests were in accordance with the policies of Harvard University, and in many cases, the Center’s findings were contrary to corporate interests.

        ! John Graham is in the mainstream of science and policy analysis. Numerous federal agencies, including EPA, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute, the National Science Foundation, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,

        ! have funded the Harvard Center’s work. EPA’s Science Advisory Board invited Dr. Graham to serve as consulting expert in its review of dioxin. Dr. Graham was elected President of the International Society for Risk Analysis, an organization of 2,500 scientists, engineers and scholars dedicated to promoting risk analysis to improve decision making. Many of his over 130 articles have appeared in prestigious peer-reviewed journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Public Health, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

We believe that Dr. Graham will use his valuable experience to bring more insight into the issues that confront OIRA every day. He made crystal clear at his confirmation hearing that he will enforce the laws of the land as Congress has written them. He understands that there is a significant difference between a professor’s role of questioning old ways of thinking and the OIRA Administrator’s role of implementing the laws and the President’s policies.

Having worked on this nomination for many months, we are confident that a fair review of the record will lead the Senate to conclude that Dr. John Graham has the qualifications and character to serve the public with distinction. Our committee colleagues agreed, with a bipartisan nine to three vote.