James C. Miller III, President Reagan’s choice to replace David A. Stockman as budget director, will be asked about allegations that the budget office has obstructed health and safety rules and abused its power, Senate aides said Monday.
Confirmation hearings for Miller, who has been nominated to succeed Stockman as head of the Office of Management and Budget, were set for today by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
Although his approval is almost certain, the stage has been set for some hostile questions about the budget office’s oversight role in governmental regulations, especially since Miller, now the head of the Federal Trade Commission, once directed the OMB’s regulatory subdivision.
Many senators have been frustrated by what they see as the OMB’s tendency to take policy-making matters into its own hands, circumventing agency rules and Congress’ intent.
Sen. David Durenberger (R-Minn.) got the Senate to agree last week to a move aimed at forcing the OMB to lift its hold on some drinking water standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, but which have been mired at the OMB for nearly six months.
In another matter, several congressmen have joined in a suit that alleges that the OMB interfered in a short-term exposure standard for ethylene oxide, a sterilization chemical, set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“We can’t blame Miller, not yet anyway,” said Margaret Wrightson, Durenberger’s aide on the committee. But she said that Miller will be asked how he intends to handle the regulations part of his job.
“From Durenberger’s point of view there is a legitimate role for an Administration oversight (of regulations),” she said. “But not to change public policy--that’s a legislative role.”