Howard Shelanski told a House committee on Wednesday that sequestration is “having a negative effect, constraining us from having as much personnel” as the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) needs to review the regulations. The agency is “at bare-bones level of staffing because we’re not filling vacancies,” he said. “We lose some effort due to furloughs.” Staff are scheduled to be furloughed for the next two Mondays.
The news comes at a time of major stagnation for the agency. The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) has accused OIRA of sitting on more than 120 separate regulations that should be moving to implementation. Yet it is supposed to act on regulations it receives within three months.
One of the rules that was recently delayed would have required new cars to include systems that allow drives to more easily see blind spots, which was aimed at improving child safety. The Department of Transportation had estimated that it would prevent about 100 fatalities and more than 7,000 injuries each year.
CSS also cautions that as the agency sits on regulations, it falls under “undue influence from regulated industries,” as it meets far more frequently with industry opponents of the rules than with supportive groups.
Sequestration is slowing many things down, including the economy itself. If it were cancelled now, it could see as many as 1.6 million more jobs and 1.2 percent more growth in GDP. Even the budgetary outlook would be much better without the automatic budget cuts.
Meanwhile, many Republican lawmakers have voiced their support of the budget cuts as a way to reduce government spending.