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OMB and Congress gain more rule-making oversight

Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testifies during a House Budget Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.

Federal regulators, including those at independent agencies like the SEC and Federal Reserve, will be required to submit more rules for White House and congressional approval under new guidelines issued Thursday by the Office of Management and Budget.

In a 15-page memo to the heads of executive departments and agencies, Russell Vought, OMB acting director, said OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will now have expanded jurisdiction to determine if proposed regulations are "major" or "minor." If a regulation or guidance is deemed "major," Congress will have to review and vote on it.

The new policy, which becomes fully effective May 11, will also apply to policy statements and other agency guidance, which had been beyond congressional jurisdiction.

The memo reinforces federal agencies' obligations under the Congressional Review Act "in order to ensure more consistent compliance with its requirements across the Executive Branch," according to the memo. The act requires regulators to submit major rules to Congress at least 60 days before their effective date.

A March 12 report from the Government Accountability Office found that agencies "did not consistently comply" with the act during 120-day presidential transition periods. Increases in economically significantly regulations during presidential transition periods are typical, said the GAO, which found that the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations published an average of 2.5 times more economically significantly rules than during non-transition periods.