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White House Agency Delays Life-Saving Regulation

By Alan Pyke

"White House Agency Delays Life-Saving Regulation"

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The White House’s regulatory review office delayed action on a regulation aimed at improving child safety in new cars on Thursday, which would require new automobiles to include systems allowing drivers to more easily see into the blind spots left by their rearview mirrors. The Department of Transportation says it would prevent about a hundred fatalities and over 7,000 injuries each year.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) issued a statement condemning the move, criticizing “the Administration’s foot dragging over a rule that could help save the lives of hundreds of young children and prevent thousands of heartbreaking industries.” That sentiment was echoed by the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), a group of good government non-profit groups and think tanks that works to promote common-sense regulation.

The decision to punt on the automobile rule isn’t an isolated example, according to CSS. In a report earlier this month, the coalition accused the executive branch of stalling over 120 separate regulations. The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is the White House’s review board for regulations, and according to a Clinton-era executive order which President Obama has endorsed, it is supposed to act on regulations it receives within three months.

White House spokeswoman Ari Isaacman Astles defended OIRA to the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer when CSS’s report was released, saying the administration fights to balance the twin public interests of safety and economic growth in its regulatory review process. She added that the agency “works as expeditiously as possible to review rules.”

The Transportation rule that prompted Rockefeller’s statement was sent to OIRA in November 2011, but after Thursday’s delay it could spend as much as three and a half years languishing in the executive branch bureaucracy. And according to CSS, the agency’s efforts to balance competing concerns are falling under “undue influence from regulated industries,” citing records that show OIRA has met with industry opponents of regulations far more frequently than with groups who support the rules.

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