CPSC’s tenuous existence still tenuous

The Consumerist reports here on the U.S. Senate’s efforts to reach a compromise that would, for the time being, keep the severely neutered federal Consumer Product Safety Commission alive and functioning to a limited extent. SCD’s prior coverage is available here and here.

To recap briefly, CSPC is supposed to be headed by five commissioners, with a minimum of three required for a quorum. The agency currently has but two commissioners and no chair. CPSC can act at all only by special dispensation of Congress, which has twice passed temporary measures reducing the quorum number to two.

The only commissioner nominee Bush has sent to the Senate for confirmation was an unabashed industry whore who had no chance whatsoever of being confirmed. Nancy Nord, the commissioner who serves as acting chair, is a free market nutburger who thinks that manufacturer self-policing is the only way to go when it comes to consumer product safety. She also publicly denounced Congressional proposals to increase the agency’s budget and staffing.

But Congress is plowing ahead undeterred. The House of Representative’ proposal for beefing up CPSC is expansive. The Senate’s version is considerably more sedate, but still has some nice features. Per The Consumerist, the Senate version provides:

  • The CPSC would create a consumer complaint database that lists death, injury and illness reports, a provision absent from the House bill.
  • State attorneys general would be allowed to seek injunctions for violations of federal law, but would not receive broad enforcement powers.
  • Whistleblower protection would be extended to private-sector employees, and whistleblowers would be allowed to sue for damages up to $250,000.
  • Maximum fines would rise from $1.8 million to $20 million—far less than the $100 million approved by the House.

There’ll be much more to come soon. There’s a very real possibility that CPSC will not only survive the Bush administration’s murder attempt but come out stronger and more effective than ever. For now, though, the agency’s very existence remains tenuous.

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