Tucked within the Office of Management & Budget in Washington is the most powerful agency most people outside the Beltway have never heard of. It's the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), home to a regulatory czar who sits in judgment of most proposed government rules, especially those for environment, health, and safety. "OIRA is crucial—it's the only gatekeeper in the city," says William L. Kovacs, a vice-president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The gate was very friendly to business during the Bush years. It clanged shut on most proposed rules—about air quality, for example—that companies said would be too costly. Kovacs and others in the business community feared President Barack Obama would fling open that gate, letting the regulatory agencies run amok. So there was huge relief when Obama picked friend and former University of Chicago Law School colleague, Cass R. Sunstein—currently a professor at Harvard Law School. "He is the best we could have hoped for from this Administration," says Iain Murray, senior fellow at the right-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute.
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