Senate Confirms Cass Sunstein as Regulatory Czar

Cass SunsteinUpdate Sept. 11: By a vote of 57-40 the Senate has confirmed Cass Sunstein as President Barack Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget.

For more on Sunstein, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below.

After he took office, President Barack Obama created a new position, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget. The short hand name for the job is "Regulatory Czar", an administrator whose job it will be to review major regulatory decisions.

Someone like that could have been a big help in avoiding the recent banking crisis. Or the abuse at cattle slaughterhouses that resulted in the largest nationwide recall of beef last year. Or the Bureau of Land Management’s decision, rejected recently by a federal court, that the agency had the authority to eliminate whole herds of America’s wild horses without finding they are excess and despite the protections mandated by the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.        

Cass Sunstein was nominated in April to fill this new role of Regulatory Czar. Sunstein is a professor and scholar in constitutional, administrative and environmental law as well as behavioral economics. He is the Harry Kalven Visiting Professor at University of Chicago Law School and the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Among the many topics he has written about, Cass Sunstein has also written about the welfare of animals. You can find more about this in Animal Law Coalition’s Resources under Recommended Reading.

A consent resolution in the Senate to approve Sunstein’s nomination was blocked earlier this summer. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) placed holds on the nomination. To overcome this and allow the Senate to consider the nomination, the Senate will invoke cloture, meaning with support of 3/5 of the Senate or 60 votes, the nomination can be considered for up to 30 additional hours.  Go here for more on use of cloture in Senate nominations.

Opponents have tried to defeat this nomination with fear mongering, claiming, for example, under Sunstein cows could sue McDonald’s.  

The Wall Street Journal, however, described Sunstein as someone who would "shape law and policy around the way research shows people actually behave",  a theory "widely embraced by conservatives". According to WSJ, it is "an approach to regulation that would avoid ideological extremes".

Forbes.com described Sunstein as "a progressive but no ideologue". He is described as a "pragmatist", who may not "make close friends of those on the far left or right".  

It is time someone in the federal government took a pragmatic and common sense view of the care and treatment of animals and management of natural resources. We have too long pandered to those who view these as nothing more than commodities to be used for their personal gain, leaving us with global warming, factory farms that pollute and endanger health, overgrazed lands and polluted waterways, increasing numbers of extinct species of wildlife, and brutal cruelty to animals trapped in the food and pet industries.