Examining Practical Solutions to Improve the Federal Regulatory Process

June 5, 2015

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Testimony before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Roundtable Discussion hearing on Examining Practical Solutions to Improve the Federal Regulatory Process


Chairman Lankford and Ranking Member Heitkamp, thank you for inviting me to participate in today’s roundtable discussion to examine practical solutions to improve the federal regulatory process. I am Director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, and Distinguished Professor of Practice in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. From April 2007 to January 2009, I oversaw executive branch regulations of the federal government as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). I have studied regulations and their effects for over three decades, from perspectives in government (as both a career civil servant and political appointee), the academy, the non-profit world, and consulting.

I founded the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center in 2009 to improve regulatory policy through research, education, and outreach. An academic center of GW’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, we are a network of scholars from around the globe with experience and credibility on regulatory matters who conduct objective, empirically-based analysis of regulatory policies and practices.  

I appreciate this Committee’s interest in exploring common sense, bipartisan ideas to provide immediate improvements to the federal regulatory process. Though regulation affects every aspect of our lives, as a policy tool it rarely reaches the attention of voters (and consequently of elected officials) because, unlike the federal budget, its effects are often not visible. Like the direct government spending that is supported by taxes, regulations are designed to achieve social goals, but the costs of regulations are hidden in higher prices paid for goods and services and in opportunities foregone. 

This committee’s constructive bipartisan discussions have the potential to bring about needed improvements. The 1970s and 80s are a testament to the reform that can be accomplished with bipartisan efforts in Congress, the Executive and the Judiciary. Those efforts, informed by scholarship and experience, brought about dramatic improvements in innovation and consumer welfare by removing unnecessary regulation that had kept prices high, to the benefit of regulated industries, and at the expense of consumers.

This testimony offers recommendations in four areas that may meet the Subcommittee’s request for “common sense ideas that could garner bipartisan support and provide immediate improvement to the federal regulatory process.” These are 1) codifying regulatory impact analysis requirements, 2) providing for earlier analysis and public input on new regulations, 3) increasing resources for regulatory oversight, and 4) being mindful of regulatory consequences when passing new legislation. The sections that follow summarize insights in each of these areas, and provide citations to relevant GW Regulatory Studies Center research that provide further detail.