CPSIA Update: Ignoring the Harm, Pretending No Mistakes

It’s a rare occasion when the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is mentioned on the floor of the Senate or House. A complete, frank discussion of the CPSIA would require Congress admitting it passed a bill that has caused awful damage and disruption to businesses and consumers. Admit error? Not Congress.

But the CPSIA has been a disaster. As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service summarized:

The CPSC has been overwhelmed with multiple statutory deadlines. Confusion is rampant among manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, and consumers about new lead limits for consumer products intended for children 12 and under. Turmoil is particularly acute among small businesses. Despite agency efforts to provide clarification, consignment shops, thrift stores, and various charitable organizations still fear incurring stiff fines for inadvertently violating the CPSIA, and retailers across the county are contemplating disposing of valuable inventory that may well pose no health risks.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) mentioned none of this in his speech on the Senate floor yesterday praising President Obama’s nomination of Inez Tenenbaum and Robert Adler to serve on the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Senator did remind the public of his support for increased CPSC funding and staffing, and he levied the familiar criticisms of past practices and the current leadership at the CPSC. (Remarks.)

(We note that the NAM has also expressed support for the President’s CPSC nominees: “NAM Welcomes Administration’s New Consumer Product Safety Effort.”)

As for the CPSIA, Senator Durbin talked briefly about the law but failed to acknowledge its many serious flaws.

Our passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act—which President Bush had signed into law—by an overwhelming vote of 89 to 3 in the Senate was an indication this was a bipartisan issue, as it should have been. That law virtually eliminated lead from toys and children’s products, made sure the products met national standards, authorized a doubling of the Consumer Product Safety Commission budget, and strengthened the Commission’s ability to protect Americans.

Yesterday, President Obama’s announcement of these two vacancies being filled builds on that effort to make sure the Commission has the right leadership in place to implement a law in a comprehensive, yet commonsense, manner.

Yet as the CPSC’s own professional staff has detailed, the statutes’ inflexible provisions and overly broad application make implementation difficult and in many cases, unachievable.

The law is the problem, a bipartisan problem. Why can’t more members of Congress acknowledge the obvious?

It’s not as there isn’t abundant evidence available. It keeps piling up. For example, from The Musings of a Catholic Bookstore blog, “Your Yard Sale is Now Regulated by CPSIA and the Federal Government!

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