Head of Consumer Safety Opposes Plan to Expand Agency

There are some calls in Washington for the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to step down. Nancy Nord is under fire for doing something virtually unheard of in Washington — she opposes a plan to expand her agency.

With all the product recalls in recent months, the commission has been in the public spotlight, and lawmakers have decided to act with a new bill.

"What we're trying to do is completely revamp the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the reason we're doing that, is because they are completely overwhelmed right now," Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said.

The legislation would more than double the agency's funding over seven years, and mandates the hiring of at least 100 additional staffers.

Despite the additional funds, the woman in charge at the CPSC is objecting.

"If I see a provision in the bill that is going to get in the way of our doing our job right, I feel I have a responsibility to speak out," Nord, the acting CPSC chairman, said.

Nord is opposed to major portions of the bill. For example, she disagrees with increasing fines to as much as $100 million for companies that don't quickly report a product that may be defective.

Nord insists this provision would result in worried companies reporting every little safety concern, and inundating the agency.

Consumer groups scoff at that.

"We wonder who they are protecting. Are they protecting manufactures, or are they protecting consumers?" Donald Mays of Consumer Reports asked.

And some Democrats are asking the same question.

"This is the agency that deals with regulation. She is charged with doing that. If she doesn't believe we ought to be doing it, I think it's time for her to resign," Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said at a press conference.

The legislation is still in the very early stages, but it did move forward today on Capitol Hill, despite Nord's opposition to the plan.

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