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Freak GOP Majority At Consumer Agency Goes Mad With Power Like An Idaho Lt. Governor
No seriously, this is shocking shit.
Just in case anyone was under any illusions about how government works when Republicans are in power, the Washington Post reminded us with a fun little jaw-dropper about what happened in September when, thanks to a delay in confirming Joe Biden's appointees, Republicans briefly held a majority on the Consumer Product Safety Commission. After glancing around and noticing there were two of them and just one Democrat, the two Republican members of the committee rushed to chop out upcoming regulations from the agency's annual plan.
They had the ability to make business easier for the companies the CPSC regulates, so they did, meaning that in the new fiscal year, which started October 1, the commission
no longer plans in the coming year to draw up new mandatory rules for preventing suffocation in infant nursing pillows or carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances.
We know when we get an unexpected majority, the first thing to go is rules "preventing suffocation in infant nursing pillows or carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances." Every time!
The commission, which sets safety standards for thousands of products (so your baby stroller won't collapse while you're out for a stroll with said baby, for instance), normally has five commissioners, but three members nominated by Biden in July were still awaiting confirmation by the Senate. And why hadn't they been confirmed? Oh, what a silly question! The Post explains it was at least partly "because of delays created by Republican senators, according to four government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity[.]"
That was pretty convenient for the two Republican goobers on the commission, not to mention for the people who've got a yen for suffocating infants in nursing pillows and poisoning people with carbon monoxide. Republicans LOVE helping out corporate citizens when they can.
The Post points out that, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, Biden's nominees to a whole assload of agencies and government boards have waited considerably longer to get confirmed than nominees in previous administrations.
And while the Post doesn't say so, we suspect it might also be the result of Donald Trump just never appointing people to anything but the federal courts. We checked: On January 15, the week before Biden was sworn in, the Post's final tally of Trump appointments noted that 228 out of 757 "key positions" requiring Senate confirmation had never had a nominee.
But it's not just the number of nominees that are slowing down the confirmations, as the Post notes, because under the Senate's weird rules,
one senator can hold up a confirmation vote for any reason, without announcing it publicly. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) revealed that he is blocking several Biden nominations for the State Department.
That appears to be the case with at least some of the three Biden nominees to the CPSC, as the Post explained. One, Mary Boyle, is waiting for a Senate committee to get something or other done (the Post isn't terribly specific). Another, Rich Trumka Jr., has pretty clearly been the target of one of those secret senatorial blocks, but who blocked him isn't clear. And the third, Alex Hoehn-Saric, was nominated to replace Democratic CPSC chair Robert Adler, who planned to resign. No problems there, except that everything went nuts before Hoehn-Saric could be confirmed.
The Post explains that normally, the agency's annual operating plan lays out CPSC's agenda for the safety rules and enforcement priorities it'll address in the new fiscal year. "The agency's staff draws it up. The commissioners vote on it. And it is normally a routine affair."
Not so much this year! The two Republicans holding the majority, Peter Feldman and Dana Baiocco, saw the chance to fuck things up. And lo, there was fuckery: "The Republican commissioners issued more than 40 amendments to the original plan at the last minute, which all passed."
Some of the changes seemed to be very minor rephrasings, but others had serious policy implications.
The Republican amendments to the plan eliminated gas appliances from a project studying ways to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning but kept in portable generators. They also canceled plans for gas appliances to be the subject of a new mandatory safety rule on carbon monoxide. Instead, the agency will conduct "data analysis and technical review."
A "senior CPSC official" explained the R's simply believed the issue needed more research, to make sure they get things right. Wouldn't want to be hasty — and heavens, wouldn't a new safety standard mean manufacturers might be inconvenienced, or even have to redesign their products?
And then there's this, which seems kinda evil:
The amended plan also halted work on a new mandatory safety rule for infant nursing pillows. Instead, the agency is directed to work with the industry on a voluntary safety standard. The pillows are popular products and similar to the infant loungers recalled in September in conjunction with the CPSC after eight babies in five years accidentally suffocated in them.
But maybe these products are fine, and the industry will do a terrific job of regulating itself. Like it did with the products in which babies already suffocated. (We bet Susan Collins, if asked, might say the industry learned its lesson .)
Rachel Weintraub, general counsel for the Consumer Federation of America, told the Post, "It's very clear they are ending rulemaking and rolling back enforcement." Well of course! How can the GOP drown government in a bathtub if there are federal regulations on bathtubs?
Things then got even weirder. After Feldman and Baiocco added those 40 amendments and passed the new, disimproved operating plan, Adler felt he'd been blindsided, according to two insiders.
"Five minutes before the votes were due, they submitted [dozens of] amendments and voted them out and didn't give him a chance to look at them," one senior official said.
The Republican commissioners, Feldman and Baiocco, felt they had done nothing wrong, according to two senior officials.
"I think the process wasn't unusual," said another senior official. "The votes are what they are."
Ah, then, all is well, because the Rs were operating under the basic principle of Republican governance: We do what we must, because we can.
Adler came back a couple days later with a ruling from the CPSC's acting general counsel, which said the changes were "null and void" since the commissioners had ignored an agency rule requiring any "substantive change" to be shared with other top CPSC officials first. We're just going to go with WaPo's narration of what happened next, so you can snort-laugh in disbelief like we did:
Adler accused the two Republican commissioners of "Government by Ambush" and "a power grab" in a statement the next day.
Feldman and Baiocco responded with a statement celebrating the changes they made.
"Unfortunately," Adler wrote back , "stating something categorically and with enthusiasm simply doesn't make it true."
Not to be outdone, Feldman and Baiocco then voted for a measure saying the general counsel couldn't cancel a commission vote and again adopted their amended plan. Adler voted against it, but he was outnumbered.
Again, they had the power to do it, and they wanted to do it, so they did it. Haha, loser, you lost!
Following the brouhaha (but not funny) at CPSC, Sen. Roger Wicker briefly blocked Hoehn-Saric's nomination, and sent a very angry letter to Adler explaining that insisting on following CPSC rules constituted "a brazen act of sabotage by an acting Chairman who found himself on the losing side of a vote." Eventually, the Post reports, Wicker removed the block once the CPSC promised him it will follow the plan the two GOP commissioners finagled.
Hoehn-Saric was confirmed, and Adler will stay on the commission until the other two Democrats are confirmed, if only to prevent more Republican fuckery.
This is all very much like how Donald Trump and his administration operated for four terrible years. Rule of law comes down to whatever you can get away with.
See also my home state of Idaho, where Lt. Gov. Janet McGeachin likes to make up new wingnut executive orders whenever the actual governor, Brad Little, leaves the state (both are Republicans). After all, the state constitution says she can, so why shouldn't she have fun — even though Little reversed her orders as soon as he returns.
In conclusion, letting Republicans get their hands on a government agency is like letting Hannibal Lecter babysit, the end.
[ WaPo ]
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