Sunset Commission Amendment Presents an Unaccountable Attack on Public Protections

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Sunset Commission Amendment Presents an Unaccountable Attack on Public Protections

Coalition for Sensible Safeguards Opposes Cornyn Amendment to S. 493

WASHINGTON - The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) strongly opposes an amendment offered by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), entitled "United States Authorization and Sunset Commission Act of 2011." The amendment to S. 493, a reauthorization of parts of the Small Business Act, would create a commission of politicians to review and propose the "abolishment of agencies and programs" of the federal government. Such a sunset commission could dismantle public protections through a process that leaves the American people in the dark.

The provision, Amendment 186, would establish an eight-member commission of lawmakers with unprecedented powers to review and decide which agencies and programs are no longer needed or should be altered. Every program and agency in the federal government would be subject to review by this unaccountable commission. The commission's recommendations would be considered by Congress under expedited procedures for limited debate and quick votes. With the recommendations “fast-tracked,” Congress would be forced to vote – without conducting its own assessment – on potentially hundreds of programs that affect the environment, workers, consumers, health care, civil rights, education, housing, nutrition, transportation, the economy and other programs on which Americans rely for a better, more productive country.

A sunset commission, though made up of a few members of Congress, would actually shift the balance of power away from the body as a whole. "By voting to give a sunset commission the unprecedented authority to broadly reorganize government and terminate government programs, Congress would be essentially abdicating its oversight responsibilities and jeopardizing programs that keep all of us safe and enhance our quality of life every day," said Gary D. Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, a CSS member organization.

The commission would make its rulings behind closed doors without notice, comment or open meetings.

CSS also strongly opposes another provision, Amendment 199, to S. 493 offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky). Amendment 199 would slash agency budgets across the board and completely defund several important agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Robert Weissman, president of CSS member group Public Citizen, said, "Defunding the Consumer Product Safety Commission would return us to an era of widespread illnesses from lead-tainted toys, cribs that kill and consumer uncertainty about product safety."
Following the flood of product recalls in 2007 and 2008, Congress voted overwhelmingly to strengthen the CPSC's ability to make sure the products we use every day are safe, promising the families of injured children that they would work with the CPSC to make sure these tragedies would not continue.

Weissman concluded, "Paul's amendment not only breaks that promise, it tramples upon it."

In addition, CSS opposes Amendment 197, which could deliver a fatal blow to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by delaying implementation of the law until multiple, lengthy court cases are resolved. That amendment was offered by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is a coalition of consumer, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, as well as concerned individuals, joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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