WASHINGTON (MCT) The Senate on Tuesday dove into what could be an extensive debate over a sweeping reform of the nation's toy-safety system, rejecting an early attempt to scale back its mandates for increased toy testing and other safety measures.
The bill would bring the largest overhaul in decades of the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, if the Senate passes the measure and reconciles it with a version the House passed late last year and President Bush signs it into law. Senate leaders expect debate to last at least through Thursday before the bill comes to a final vote.
The bipartisan reform push follows a troubled year for the American child products industry, which saw massive recalls, scares over lead and revelations by the Chicago Tribune that the safety agency responded slowly to reports of deadly cribs and toy magnets.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lauded the Chicago Tribune's coverage in a floor speech supporting the bill Tuesday. "If there's a dangerous toy in America you cannot expect every family to do a test," he said. "You can't expect every family to be able to certify safety. They expect the government to do that."
The House bill would tighten lead standards, mandate new toy safety testing and boost the CPSC's annual budget to $100 million by 2011, an increase of more than 50 percent from 2007.
The Senate version would give the agency more money and would go further in other ways. It would require even stricter new toy testing, mandating industry standards that are now voluntary. It would extend whistle-blower protections to any company or government employees who expose unsafe products.
It would call for the creation of a new publicly searchable database of product safety information and complaints. It would set stricter lead standards, and would give states more power to enforce product safety laws.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., offered an amendment Tuesday that would have replaced those tougher Senate provisions with the language from the House bill. But the Senate rejected it on a bipartisan vote of 57-39, with all three senators running for president missing the vote.