Georgetown University Law Center professor Howard Shelanski was named President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the nation’s chief regulation review body, April 25.
Shelanski, currently on leave from Georgetown and serving as the director of the Bureau of Economics at the Federal Trade Commission, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As of press time, no date had yet been set for Shelanski’s confirmation hearing.
“Our nation will be greatly served by the talent and expertise these individuals bring to their new roles,” Obama said in a White House press release announcing Shelanski’s nomination, which was part of a batch of nominations. “I am grateful they have agreed to serve in this administration and I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”
OIRA, an agency within the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President, is responsible for vetting all government regulations and provides feedback on a host of different policies ranging from transportation to healthcare.
“OIRA’s mission is to make sure regulations are not overreaching or fail tests of economic rationality,” Law Center professor Steven Salop said. “It helps the executive branch remain up to date in the best thinking about how to formulate good regulations.”
According to Salop, regulation is a combination of law and economics, and Shelanski’s experience within both fields as a law professor, chief economist for the Federal Communications Commission and a senior economist on the President’s Council on Economic Advisers makes him an ideal candidate for the position.
“I can’t imagine someone who is better qualified for the job,” Salop said. “It does not surprise me that the president would want someone like Shelanski for this job.”
Salop noted that Shelanski appeals across party lines as Obama’s nominee and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scalia (CAS ’57).
“He sees both sides,” Salop said. “He is cautious, rigorous and progressive. … He is a person who can communicate cogently to people across the political spectrum and be considered reasonable by everyone.”
Economics professor Robert Cumby, however, said that other political factors could potentially stand in the way of the confirmation process.
“It can have absolutely nothing to do with whether he’s the guy or not,” Cumby said. “These things can be slowed up for reasons that have nothing to do with the nominee. It all depends on what other issues are on people’s minds and whether there’s been a negotiation with a package of appointments that it will be considered and moved ahead speedily.”
If confirmed, Shelanski would succeed Cass Sunstein, who stepped down in August 2012.