The House will be urged, perhaps this week, to strip independent rule-making authority from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the first regulatory agency to come before it since the Supreme Court's invalidation of legislative vetoes last Thursday.
Rep. Elliott H. Levitas (D-Ga.), a leading House member in regulatory matters, said he will offer an amendment to the pending five-year CPSC reauthorization bill to require passage of a joint resolution of Congress--in effect, approval by the House, Senate and president--before any major new rule devised by the CPSC could go into effect.
The CPSC has jurisdiction over 15,000 different products and more than a million manufacturers and retailers, and has recalled more than 300 million articles during its existence.
Levitas has been an insistent supporter of continuing congressional control over matters delegated to the executive branch, most notably through the legislative veto.
His proposal may not be the ultimate answer to last week's Supreme Court decision, he said, but it also "may be" the most effective way to deal with "all major rules" and regulations coming out of executive agencies in the future.
For the CPSC, Levitas added, his amendment would apply "just to those rules that have been previously subject to legislative vetoes." That would cover the agency's product safety standards, its flammability standards and its regulations concerning hazardous substances.
"Since 1973, they the CPSC have issued only 35 rules in those areas," Levitas said in a brief telephone interview.
He said he was considering several alternatives, including one that would be an amendment to House rules and so presumably would be immune to challenge in the courts.
Such an amendment would empower each authorizing committee with jurisdiction over an agency to examine new regulations and report out a resolution disapproving any to which it objected. If the House adopted the resolution, it would then be out of order for the House to appropriate any money "to fund the rule," he said.
"This would be stricly in House," Levitas said. "And the courts have said Congress can appropriate money any way it sees fit."
Despite the alarms in some quarters over the Supreme Court ruling, House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) said yesterday that he had "always been an anti-veto man," and indicated that he felt the device had been put into too many bills over the years.
O'Neill said the legislative veto had come into vogue in the early 1970s because of the widespread feeling that "the power of Congress had descended and the powers of the president had gone too far," but he suggested that the reaction had been excessive.
The speaker said he was concerned about the War Powers Act and the Impoundment Control Act, which he felt could be at least partly jeopardized by the court's decision. But for many other bills, he made clear that he thought other legislative gambits, such as "curtailments" and "appropriations only to a time certain," would serve just as well.
The CPSC bill already is under attack from the Reagan administration, which favors only a three-year authorization and less money for the agency than the House bill would provide. The bill would give the CPSC $47 million for fiscal 1984. The administration, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other manufacturing groups, favors a $35.7 million level.
Meanwhile, Rep. Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.) announced that the House Foreign Affairs committee has invited Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Attorney General William French Smith to testify at hearings on the implications of the decision for foreign policy law-making.
The committee also plans to set up a bipartisan task force to identify and analyze affected foreign policy legislation, including the 1984 foreign aid appropriation.
That measure, approved overwhelmingly by the committee after bitter debate, clearly is affected by the Supreme Court ruling, the aide said. It provides for a possible legislative veto on military aid to El Salvador if Congress is not satisfied with upcoming presidential certifications that the Salvadorans are progressing in human rights, land reform and restoration of political consensus. Existing law for 1983 aid requires certification but does not include the veto provision.
Rep. Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), who was instrumental in forging the 1984 bill, said one way around the problem would be to change the bill to allow a joint resolution of disapproval from both houses of Congress rather than a concurrent resolution.