Cast of Characters
Senate Confirms Harvard Professor to Oversee Regulatory Affairs
Cass Sunstein won Senate confirmation Thursday as President Obama's director of regulatory affairs, taking on the role of chief arbiter of debates on whether federal regulations are worth the cost.
The Senate approved Sunstein's nomination by a vote of 57 to 40.
The choice of Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor and friend of Obama's, concerned some environmentalists because of his support for cost-benefit analysis -- a system of weighing the cost of proposed rules against the benefits to health and safety.
"We hope that he won't be an impediment, based on his past emphasis on cost-benefit analysis to the exclusion of other values," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington-based environmental group. "We hope he will look at other values, such as protecting the environment."
Former President George W. Bush's appointees to the regulatory office supported cost-benefit analysis, as did the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business lobbying organization.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said that Sunstein's writings are "outside the mainstream" and suggest that he supports giving animals lawyers to defend their rights, as well as public policies that value younger people over senior citizens.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said during the Senate debate that Sunstein would "be fair, and not anti-business," and is "extraordinarily well-qualified for this position."
Posted at 4:19 PM ET on Sep 10, 2009
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