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The term "independent regulatory agency" is used to refer to Federal agencies that have been established by Congress to have a certain amount of independence from the President. Although their attributes depend on their individual statutes, most independent agencies are multi-member boards and commissions such as the FCC, FTC, NLRB and SEC. (An exception is the Social Security Administration, which is an independent agency headed by a single administrator.) Although the President appoints the members, he usually may not choose more than a bare majority from his own party. Although the President typically may select the chairperson, he may not seek to remove members without "cause." Such agencies also may have special authority to transmit its budget or legislative proposals to Congress without OMB approval and/or to litigate in court independent of the Department of Justice.

Despite these important structural differences, these agencies operate under the APA and most other procedural statutes in the same way that executive departments and agencies do. There are, however, a few significant differences. Independent agencies have not been made subject to most provisions of Presidential Executive Orders. Therefore, the independent agencies do not have to submit their rules to OIRA for review under E.O. 12866-although they are required to participate in the Unified Agenda. Independent agencies are also specifically exempted from the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, independent agencies are empowered, by majority vote, to override an OMB rejection of an information collection request. That Act contains the only statutory definition of "independent regulatory agency." (See, 44 U.S.C § 3502(5) (containing an illustrative list of 16 such agencies).

This glossary was first compiled by The Regulatory Group, Inc., for its training courses more than 20 years ago. It is constantly being amended and revised to stay current with the developments in the Federal regulatory process. Please contact us if you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions on how this glossary can be further improved.
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