Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Keywords

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OIRA, OIRA review, agency evasion, regulatory agencies, rulemaking, presidential oversight, game‐theory, regulatory review, cost-benefit analysis, CBA

Abstract

Concerns have recently been raised that US federal agencies may sometimes avoid regulatory review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). In this article, we assess the seriousness of such potential avoidance, and we recommend a framework for evaluating potential responses. After summarizing the system of presidential regulatory oversight through OIRA review, we analyze the incentives for agencies to cooperate with or avoid OIRA. We identify a wider array of agency avoidance tactics than has past scholarship, and a wider array of corresponding response options available to OIRA, the President, Congress, and the courts. We argue that, because the relationship between agencies and OIRA involves ongoing repeat player interactions, some of these avoidance tactics are less likely to occur (or to succeed) than has previously been alleged, and others are more likely; the difference depends significantly on how easy it is for OIRA to detect avoidance, and for OIRA, the courts, and others to respond. Further, we note that in this repeat player relationship, responses to agency avoidance tactics may induce further strategic moves and countermoves. Thus we further argue that the optimal response may not always be to try to eliminate the avoidance behavior; some avoidance may be worth tolerating where the benefits of trying to reduce agency avoidance would not justify the costs of response options and countermoves. We therefore conclude that responses to agency avoidance should be evaluated in a way similar to what OIRA asks of agencies evaluating proposed regulations: by weighing the pros and cons of alternative response options (including no action).