When President Obama first announced his intention to nominate Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, most of the criticism came from the left. (Us VC folk were quite positive, and not just because he's been a guest blogger.) Now, however, some folks are going after Cass from the right. There's even some right-wing petition out there to block his confirmation. Julian Sanchez is not impressed.
Harvard law professor and "regulatory czar" nominee Cass Sunstein appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Sunstein's nomination to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs -- a post for which he would seem ideally suited -- is one of the few Obama nominations to have drawn significant fire from the left (and a few misleading smears from the right).
Although Sunstein is anything-but a proponent of deregulation or laissez-faire, the folks at the Center for Progressive Reform decry his enthusiasm for cost-benefit analysis and centralized regulatory review. They fear his willingness to rely on economic analysis will frustrate new regulatory efforts (while I suspect it will help insulate more agency initiatives from judicial review). Two CPR scholars took to the Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed page this morning to state their case.
Despite CPR's best efforts, there does not appear to be much controversy over the Sunstein nomination in the Senate. Law Dork 2.0 live-blogged the hearing, and the questioning seems to have been quite mild. Both the Chair, Senator Lieberman, and ranking member, Senator Collins, expressed their support, and the critical questions seemed pretty pro forma. At this point I would think Sunstein's confirmation will go forward without a hitch.
It appears confirmation of Cass Sunstein to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at OMB will be held up because Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) is concerned about Sunstein's embrace of certain animal rights arguments. The Hill reports:
Chambliss worries that Sunstein's innovative legal views may someday lead to a farmer having to defend himself in court against a lawsuit filed on behalf of his chickens or pigs.
Chambliss told The Hill that he has blocked Sunstein's nomination because the law professor "has said that animals ought to have the right to sue folks."
Indeed, in his 2004 book, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, Sunstein wrote: "I will suggest that animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives, to prevent violations of current law."
More specifically, he wrote: "Laws designed to protect animals against cruelty and abuse should be amended or interpreted to give a private cause of action against those who violate them, so as to allow private people to supplement the efforts of public prosecutors."
Chambliss said he is also concerned about Sunstein's potential impact on "a number of other issues relative to agriculture."
The story also suggests that Chambliss could lift the hold once he has had the opportunity to speak with Sunstein directly some time after the July 4 recess. Sunstein's nomination has already cleared committee, and I would be surprised if there were a serious effort to prevent his confirmation.