How independent are government agencies? OMB’s move on ‘major’ rules may tell us

The departure of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen thrust the issue of vacancies back into the spotlight this week. This comes with worries that acting officials lack the influence needed to achieve their mission. Acting officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) yesterday served up a fresh test of this concern.

In the most significant regulatory policy change since President Trump’s two-for-one deregulatory order, Acting OMB Director Russell T. Vought recently issued a memo that will either have far-reaching effects on the U.S. regulatory system…or not.

The memo adds up to more White House oversight of agencies. While it might seem obvious that all agencies are accountable to the president, scholars have debated for decades how to account for the different types of independent agencies that Congress has created over the years.

Most agency officials serve at the pleasure of the president, but if an agency head cannot be fired without “cause,” that is a strong marker of agency independence. When the president tries to control such an agency, and it balks, the president cannot fire its head unless he has a good reason — and policy disagreement does not suffice. This principle comes from a Supreme Court case that dates back to 1935.

Read more of this Hill article by Bridget C.E. Dooling by clicking here.