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Monday June 24, 2019

Buerkle Announces October Departure from CPSC

CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle will leave the commission October 27 and will step down as agency head September 30. Her June 18 announcement asserted that she will "pursue new opportunities that will allow me to continue my life's work of advocacy and public service as well as spend more time with my six children and eighteen grandchildren."


Her statement ( additionally included:

"I have led with integrity and principle – always with our safety mission above politics. I am incredibly proud of the accomplishments achieved during my tenure and deeply appreciate the support and excellent work of the CPSC staff. I believe we saved countless lives by recalling millions of hazardous products as well as patrolling our ports to keep harmful products from entering our marketplace. We made significant safety advancements on previously stalled, complex issues including improved standards that require stock window coverings be cordless, portable generators be equipped with low carbon monoxide emission or shutoff technology, and more stringent safety measures to avoid injury and death from tip-over furniture. We achieved increased funding for our programs, modernized the agency through data and technological advancements, and improved our organizational structure and resources. We have begun an effort to equip CPSC to succeed in a rapidly changing global marketplace."

As for the chairmanship, the simplest scenario is a new person nominated and approved in time to join the panel when Buerkle leaves.


If no replacement is ready, leadership would fall to whichever of the remaining four commissioners is vice chairman – a position that is subject to a commission vote. That person presumably would take over during Buerkle's last month.


Alternatively, one of the existing commissioners could get the chairman nomination – presumably one of the Republicans: Dana Baiocco or Peter Feldman – but a fifth commissioner still would be needed to break the 2-2 tie that Buerkle's departure could create.


Buerkle joined the commission in 2013. In early 2017, she received two nominations to become chairman and for another seven-year commissioner term to October 2025. Those nominations languished in the Senate since then, needing to be resubmitted twice for new sessions of Congress. Her new action withdrew both.


Buerkle's current term as commissioner technically ended last October, but she is staying the extra year allowed under CPSC rules.


If a new Republican joins the commission, that could set up a GOP majority until at least late 2024 no matter who wins the 2020 presidential election (assuming no early departures). But if a new person is not in place before January 2021 inauguration day, and the White House changes hands, the Democrats could regain the majority. Given the historically slow movement on CPSC nominations, that is not an outlandish possibility regardless of how unlikely.


Commissioner slots run even if unfilled, and commissioners cannot be removed except for extreme reasons like malfeasance. The current terms (extra years) end in Octobers of:

  • 2020 (2021) – Elliot Kaye (D)
  • 2021 (2022) – Robert Adler (D)
  • 2024 (2025) – Dana Baiocco (R)
  • 2025 (2026) – unknown person (unknown party)
  • 2026 (2027) – Peter Feldman (R).