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July 7, 2011

Abhorrent Attack on Consumer Product Safety Legislation In House Subcommittee Hearing

Regulations Protect Consumers, Must Not Be Weakened

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The change of focus in today’s House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing entitled “The Views of the Independent Agencies on Regulatory Reform” fooled no one, Public Citizen said.

The hearing originally was supposed to focus on encouraging independent agencies to conduct voluntary reviews of existing rules that may be outdated or no longer effective, but it quickly devolved into a partisan assault on regulations that are fundamental to protecting the public.

“Just as expected, the committee members used the hearing as another opportunity to bash the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and vital components of the 2008 overhaul law, including the online, public database of consumer complaints,” said Christine Hines, consumer and civil justice counsel with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.
Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Robert Adler informed the committee in his opening testimony that the commission had in fact “conducted a review of every safety rule under our jurisdiction.” Not surprisingly, this did little to appease the majority members of the committee.

“The Republicans did a poor job of veiling their intentions with this hearing: Their goal was clearly to attack consumer product safety legislation that was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The easiest way for them to undercut laws they oppose is to block agencies from implementing or enforcing them. Laws that protect the public from harm, like the popular consumer product safety legislation, are useless if agencies aren’t allowed to do their jobs.”

The congressional attacks are to be expected, given intense opposition to a strong CPSC among the Washington, D.C., manufacturing lobby. The National Association of Manufacturers has spent more than $2 million lobbying in the first quarter of 2011 and has listed the product safety database as one of its top lobbying priorities.

“Some lawmakers are eager for agencies to look back and reconsider the value and effectiveness of their regulations,” Hines said. “But for product safety, the CPSC doesn’t need to ‘look back’ far to see the harm of under-regulation. A record number of recalls of consumer products in 2007 provoked Congress to pass a law with specific mandates to reinvigorate a poorly resourced and managed agency.”

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