The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which the Reagan administration sought to abolish two years ago in its campaign for regulatory change, is under attack again as the time for its reauthorization approaches, a consumer gathering was told here yesterday.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House subcommittee in charge of the reauthorization, cited two examples of the latest campaign against the CPSC--the recommendation by the conservative Heritage Foundation that the agency be abolished and the proposal by the House Republican Study Group to have the CPSC transferred into an executive department such as the Department of Commerce.
In describing the CPSC as a "prime candidate for abolition," the Heritage Foundation report said that its mandate "to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury associated with the use of consumer products" presents the commission with an impossible task and that the agency's regulations "consumed millions of taxpayer dollars and threatened the designated industry with substantially increased cost."
The House study group said the agency should be moved to the executive branch because it would be politically difficult to abolish it.
"The practical effect of each proposal is the same--they would result in the destruction of CPSC," Waxman said in remarks before the Consumer Assembly, an annual gathering sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America.
Waxman predicted that, although the battle to reauthorize the CPSC would be tough, the agency would survive, in part because of the outcome of the 1982 elections, which provided a "genuine opportunity to reverse the anticonsumer policies of the Reagan administration."
He said consumers should work to save the agency and to make its reauthorization a "symbol of the nation's renewed commitment to safety" rather than a symbol of the destruction of consumer protection.
To achieve its mandate, the CPSC must be adequately funded, Waxman said.
"We must restore the funds cut by the last reauthorization bill," he said. "The agency cannot do its job if it cannot afford to monitor the marketplace, investigate reports of serious injuries involving hazardous products, assure swift and complete recalls and establish safety standards when voluntary efforts fail."
Waxman said that minimum personnel levels for the CPSC also must be written into the agency's mandate, because the Office of Management and Budget has "repeatedly attempted to cripple the agency by eliminating personnel." He said the CPSC must add personnel to broaden its scientific and engineering expertise.
Two other important issues that will be part of the reauthorization proceedings, are public disclosure of information and fire-resistant cigarettes, he continued.
Waxman said he wants to examine carefully whether current law unreasonably restricts the commission's ability to disclose important safety information. And he wants to study the self-extinguishing-cigarette bill, which would direct the CPSC to issue a cigarette safety standard if one is technologically and economically feasible.
The congressman, who has established a record as a strong supporter of consumer issues, said that the White House has teamed up with the business community to try to reduce consumer protection in a number of areas, including pesticide, auto and food safety.