Three senators yesterday proposed amendments that would allow Congress to veto new rules passed by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The two agencies issue consumer protection rules on subjects ranging from toy safety to funeral industry practices. Such rules often are controversial and have spurred congressional attempts to limit the agencies' rulemaking authority.
Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Robert W. Kasten Jr. (R-Wis.) believe their amendments would satisfy objections to the legislative veto that led the Supreme Court to invalidate the mechanism in 1983.
The Supreme Court found unconstitutional laws that granted Congress the power to veto actions of the executive branch. Congress can exercise legislative authority only if both houses approve a measure and submit it for the president's signature, the court said.
That decision invalidated several laws, including a 1980 law that Congress had used to veto an FTC requirement that auto dealers disclose the flaws in used cars.
Grassley and Levin proposed amendments that would allow Congress to invalidate FTC or CPSC rules through a joint resolution by both houses, if signed by the president.
Under the proposals, if the president did not sign the resolution, Congress could kill agency rules by barring funds for their implementation through amendments to appropriations bills.
Certain legislative procedures would be expedited for such resolutions or appropriations amendments so they could be voted on more quickly.
Implementation of new rules by the agencies would be delayed for 45 to 90 days to allow for congressional review. If Congress took no action, a rule would take effect.
The veto provisions were tacked on as amendments to proposed bills to authorize funds for the CPSC and FTC.
Grassley and Levin have proposed a stronger version, which would apply to all federal agencies, in a bill now before the Senate Judiciary Committee. That bill would allow Congress to cut off funds for implementing a rule in the original appropriations bills.
Kasten proposed a similar amendment to the reauthorization bills that does not include provisions for cutting off funds.
In the House, proposed CPSC and FTC authorization bills, which have not reached the floor, both include similar legislative veto provisions. Those proposals would delay implementation of any new FTC rule for 90 days to allow congressional review. If Congress took no action, the rule would take effect. But Congress could veto a rule if both houses passed a resolution to do so and the president signed it.
FTC Chairman James C. Miller III, in testimony before both houses of Congress, said the commission supports a constitutional version of a congressional veto for FTC rules.
CPSC Chairman Terrence M. Scanlon, in testimony before the House last year, said he favors such a legislative veto.