Congress Should Reject Proposals That Would Hamstring Government’s Ability to Protect Health and Safety

Measures to Be Voted on Would Abolish Product Safety Oversight, Hamstring Agencies, Coalition for Sensible Safeguards Says

April 5, 2011

Contact: Angela Bradbery (202) 588-7741 or abradbery@citizen.org
Brian Gumm (202) 683-4812 or bgumm@ombwatch.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress should vote down proposals that would abolish the agency that works to keep toys and consumer products safe, hamstring the agency that curbs worker injuries, delay implementation of the health care law and give politicians unprecedented power to cripple other public health and safety agencies, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) said today.

The proposals are contained in amendments to S. 493, a reauthorization of parts of the Small Business Act.

“In the wake of the Wall Street-induced Great Recession, the BP oil spill disaster, the Massey Energy coal mine collapse, lead toy scandals, and salmonella outbreaks – corporate catastrophes all traceable to inadequate oversight and enforcement – Big Business and its allies in Congress have outrageously decided the time is ripe to launch a campaign to weaken public protections,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “These amendments are part of this scheme, all designed to undermine or destroy the government’s ability to provide basic health, safety, environmental and other vital protections to the American people.”

“These concepts are as offensive as they are dangerous to the public welfare,” said Gary D. Bass, executive director of OMB Watch. “Congress should not cave to budget-cutting fervor, which threatens to completely curtail the government’s ability to carry out basic health and safety protection. If these measures are approved, very essential processes that our health and safety agencies engage in would grind to a halt.”

“The ability of federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect the public’s health and welfare is already severely hampered by the multitude of obstacles that current federal law puts in the way of any new safeguards,” said Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. “Reviews by small business panels, cost-benefit analyses, and OMB review already ensure that no new regulation is put in place without extensive, often years-long, consideration. We do not need to add duplicative and burdensome new layers of review to this existing system.”

The amendments are being offered by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). Paul’s would abolish the Consumer Product Safety Commission and slash money for other key agencies, such as the Department of Labor. Cornyn’s would establish an eight-member commission of lawmakers with unprecedented powers to review and decide which agencies and programs are no longer needed or should be altered. Hutchison’s would delay implementation of the new health care law until legal challenges to the constitutionality of the individual responsibility requirement are settled.

The bill is on the floor of the Senate; votes on these amendments are expected to take place soon. Other potentially dangerous amendments have been offered.

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The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is a coalition of consumer, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, as well as concerned individuals, joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all.