Sunstein Confirmed by Senate

Law Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’75 was successfully confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to be head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

As the Obama administration’s regulatory “czar,” Sunstein will be responsible for investigating the costs and benefits of the government’s regulatory policies, on issues ranging from financial services to environmental policy.

“I feel honored, grateful, and humbled to be able to serve the country,” Sunstein wrote in an e-mailed statement to The Crimson on Saturday.

The 57-40 Senate vote fell predictably along partisan lines, with all but five Democrats who were present for the vote and only four Republicans voting in favor of his nomination.

Conservatives aired concerns about Sunstein’s public statements as an academic, particularly his comments in favor of granting some legal rights to animals.

But the nomination also drew concerns from liberals who criticized Sunstein’s advocacy of a “cost-benefit” approach to environmental legislation.

Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.)—all from conservative or swing states—voted against the nomination, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted against the nomination.

Law Professor Mark V. Tushnet ’67, a colleague of Sunstein’s at the Law School, called Sunstein “a person whose judgments are typically quite balanced—sensitive to considerations offered on all ‘sides’ of an issue,” in an e-mailed statement to The Crimson.

According to Tushnet, this year at HLS, visiting professor Michael P. Vandenbergh will teach Sunstein’s environmental law class, while various other faculty members in the field will cover his administrative law courses.

There is no one, however, to teach the popular freshman seminar entitled “Extremism: Causes, Consequences, and Cures,” which Sunstein co-taught last fall with his wife, Harvard Kennedy School Professor Samantha Power.

“It’s been the best class that I’ve taken,” said Anthony C. Hernandez ’12, who took the seminar last fall. “The best academic experience by far.”

—Staff writer James K. McAuley can be reached at