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Monday June 22, 2020

Beck Nominations Endangered by Moore Capito and Collins Opposition

Nancy Beck's CPSC nominations were put in question June 17. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) announced (bit.ly/2BlZwR2) opposition related to Beck's record on Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The senator is on the Commerce Committee, which considered the nominations June 16. Republicans hold a 14-12 majority, and Democratic members seemed fiercely opposed.

 

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also issued a statement of opposition, including related to PFAS. Collins is not on the committee but said her floor vote would be negative.

 

Committee member Tom Udall (D-N.M.) then urged the White House to withdraw the nominations (bit.ly/3delnHw). Absent withdrawal, a committee vote would not occur before mid-July. The hearing record is open until June 30 for Senators' questions and to July 14 for nominees' answers.

 

Beck's prepared statement for the hearing listed three priorities if the Senate confirms her. One echoes the goals and statements of current Republican commissioners, especially Peter Feldman. She wrote (bit.ly/2YIncae):

"CSPC programs must be run as effectively as possible to provide the highest level of protection to consumers and families. This includes hiring a Chief Technologist, as recommended by the Senate, to make certain that CPSC decisions are informed by the best available data and information."

The other two were more general: to ensure "appropriate and timely action to protect the public from risks, consistent with the CPSC statutory mandates" and to address "the changing ways through which consumers purchase products and receive important information."

 

Topics fielded by Beck in rounds of questions included:

  • CPSC Data Security: Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss), committee chairman, and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) asked her about CPSC's 2019 unauthorized release of information protected by 6(b). Her answers centered around promises to ensure follow through on Senate recommendations to improve training and management (PSL, 10/21/19).
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  • Furniture Stability: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – who a few weeks ago also called for White House withdrawal of Beck's nominations (PSL, 5/25/20) – asked if she agreed with current commissioners' views that safety provisions are insufficient. She declined to answer, saying she was not privy to internal CPSC data, but she did agree that the issue should be a priority. He criticized her for not taking an explicit pro-consumer stance when he offered an opportunity to do so.
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  • PFAS: Numerous Senators, starting with ranking minority member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), asked about Beck's role in the speed of related regulatory proposals at EPA. Her answers addressed the administrative intricacies of her duties and activities. She did directly deny to Cantwell that she acted to "weaken and delay" protections. In response to a question from Blumenthal about supporting a ban, she said she supports transition away from use. She also told him that many uses in consumer products have been phased out in new production, so problems are more to do with existing stock. Moore Capito strongly voiced concern and asked Beck why her name keeps appearing in criticisms of EPA about PFAS. Beck said she speculates it has to do with highlighting her past ties to industry.
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  • Paint Stripper: Udall was sharply critical of delays of rules at EPA related to products containing methylene chloride, up to insinuating Beck bore some responsibility for deaths that occurred. She focused on the rule now being in existence. She declined to comment on his suggestion that another EPA staffer attributed to her an alleged statement about the acceptability of a 1% injury rate in a study, saying she would need to review the study first.
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  • Asbestos: Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) asked why EPA has not completed evaluations called for by TSCA updates. She asserted that the agency has met all deadlines under that law. There was a brief back-and-forth involving his question about a full ban versus her acknowledging that some uses still are allowed. She added that EPA did ban some uses not previously addressed.
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  • Trichloroethylene: She declined to address a question by Cantwell about her role in EPA discussions, saying the conversations were protected deliberative communication.
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  • CDC COVID-19 Guidance: She denied that she blocked release, suggesting to Blumenthal that her role involved normal OMB coordination of interagency reviews. Cantwell said she would submit written questions. The Senator already sent Beck a letter last month (PSL, 5/18/20).
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  • CPSC Congeniality: Beck responded affirmatively to a question by Moran on whether she planned to work well with current commissioners. She added that she has spoken with all four and looks forward to working with them.

The day before and of the hearing, numerous advocacy groups issued statements opposing Beck's confirmation. They included Breast Cancer Prevention Partner, Consumer Federation of America, Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, and US PIRG.

 

Also, the committee received two oppositional letters, one signed by over 90 scientists (on.nrdc.org/30Vlll8) and another joined by over 100 groups (bit.ly/3fnNndg).

 

The Competitive Enterprise Institute and Independent Women's Forum issued supportive statements.

 

Beck has two nominations. One to become chairman and another to take the empty commissioner slot that ends in October 2025 with a possible additional year allowed under the Consumer Product Safety Act. Her approval would secure the Republicans a CPSC majority until at least October 2024, the official end of Commissioner Dana Baiocco's term, no matter who wins the November presidential election.

 

Of course, that would change if one of the Republicans were to decide to leave early or somehow were enticed to do so. Forced removal would be highly unlikely because that step requires extreme circumstances like malfeasance (there is no indication or even suggestion of anything like that).

 

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) – vacant (Beck's potential seat)
  • 2026 (2027) – Peter Feldman (R).

Other nominees being reviewed at the June 16 hearing (bit.ly/2zmHNs8)were one each for the Transportation Department and Federal Communications Commission plus two for the Commerce Department.