The Republican leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee, apparently rejecting a late Reagan administration call for abolishing the Consumer Product Safety Commission, moved yesterday to fund the agency for one year under strict oversight reins.
Sen. Robert Kasten (R-Wis.), chairman of the panel's consumer subcommittee, introduced legislation yesterday that adopts the administration's $33 million budget for the agency during fiscal 1982. The legislation is scheduled for a mark-up today.
But Kasten's bill -- which is supported by Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.), chairman of the full committee -- essentially ignores the view of David Stockman, director of the Office of Management and Budget. In a letter sent to Kasten on Friday, Stockman called for abolishing the nine-year-old agency. As a second option, Stockman called for ending the CPSC's status as an independent commission and shifting it to the Department of Commerce.
Informal subcommittee polls on the future of the CPSC apparently indicate that any efforts to abolish or restructure the commission at this time are likely to fail. Nevertheless, CPSC members vehemently oppose the Kasten reauthorization plan, saying that the bill's one-year time frame is likely to stifle most agency regulatory activities.
Kasten's proposal would give Congress the power to overturn new CPSC rules if both houses veto them within 90 days after they are issued.
In introducing the legislation, Kasten, a freshman, charged the agency with making "inappropriate" disclosure of business information, failing to support voluntary industry safety efforts, using inadequate rulemaking procedures, being inattentive to the costs of new rules and "overusing mandatory products standards.
Noting that the agency has an "important mission," Kasten implicitly rejected the administration's contentions, saying that during oversight hearings next month, government, business and consumer-group witnesses "were in agreement on the need to retain" the commission's authority. The proposal "will provide Congress the flexibility to consider further reforms next year, and perhaps a restructing of the agency," he said.
The Republican proposal is expected to be challenged by Sen. Wendell Ford (D-Ky.), the subcommitte's ranking minority member. Sources said Ford will seek a two-year reauthorization of the CPSC and is expected to be joined by Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) in opposing the bill's legislative-veto provision.
However, Ford is not expected to challenge the budgetary figure, an appropriation which cuts the agency's operating budget by about 30 percent from the Carter administration's proposals. Ford will take up the budget issue either on the Senate floor or during a House-Senate conference on the CPSC.