Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on Wednesday lifted his procedural "hold" on Cass Sunstein, President Obama's nominee to serve as the White House regulatory czar.
Chambliss, the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, was blocking Sunstein's confirmation over concerns about his positions on animal welfare and the Second Amendment (E&E Daily, July 8). If confirmed, Sunstein would take charge of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Chambliss said he placed the hold because, "Professor Sunstein has written, lectured and made recommendations on animal rights issues that are very troubling to me and to folks who make their living in agriculture and those who enjoy our nation's great hunting and fishing heritage."
Sunstein, a Harvard lawyer and a longtime friend of Obama, has suggested in past writings and speeches that animals should be given legal rights against injury or neglect. He has also asserted that the Second Amendment may not confer to individuals the right to use guns but may only apply to collective militias organized for common defense.
During a meeting with Chambliss earlier this week, Sunstein gave the senator a letter in which he promised that he "would not take any steps to promote litigation on behalf of animals," Chambliss said, and that "the second amendment creates an individual right to possess guns for purposes of both hunting and self-defense."
Chambliss said that although he does not agree with Sunstein's ideas or legal theories, "now that he has been educated about the toll they would take on hard-working farmers and ranchers in America, I am not going to keep him from any further consideration."
Since his confirmation hearing in May, Sunstein has met with several agricultural groups, the senator added, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, the National Pork Producers Council and the United Egg Producers. "He has satisfied some of them, and some are still decidedly wary of his ideas," Chambliss said.
Regulatory reform advocates expressed concern earlier this week about what types of promises the administration made during Sunstein's meetings with farm state senators and agricultural lobbyists (E&E Daily, July 15).
Sunstein's credentials have been heavily scrutinized since his likely nomination was reported in early January. Regulatory experts across the board have commended his academic credentials, but some watchdog groups and other observers have criticized stances Sunstein has taken in the past, particularly his strong support for the use of cost-benefit analysis in agency rulemaking (E&ENews PM, Jan. 8).