At long last, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is getting the injection of new blood that it has needed for years. President Obama announced today that he will nominate a new Chairwoman and a new Commissioner for the agency.
This is great news. CPSC has been operating with just two commissioners for several years. As originally designed, CPSC is supposed to have five commissioners and needs a quorum of three to undertake any meaningful regulatory action, such as create new safety standards or issue mandatory recalls. When President Bush was unable to nominate a suitable third commissioner, Congress let CPSC operate temporarily with two commissioners, but only on a limited budget.
That leads to the second reason President Obama’s announcement is such great news. His budget request of $107 million for the agency – a substantial increase over last year’s $80 million – will likely be looked upon more favorably by Congress now that CPSC’s important consumer protection work will be augmented by two more commissioners. (Or maybe just one office, if Acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord, a Bush appointee, decides to pursue other endeavors.)
In any case, a beefed-up CPSC is something our country needs. The agency has struggled to keep up with new mandates from Congress and inspections of products imported from countries with weak consumer protection regulations. New commissioners and a larger budget are the first steps toward transforming CPSC from its paper tiger status.