The White House has announced its intent to nominate Alexander Hoehn-Saric, current chief counsel for Communications and Consumer Protection for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to be the eleventh Chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”). Hoehn-Saric is a graduate of the University of Chicago and a 1995 graduate of the UCLA School of Law. After many years in private practice he transitioned into the public arena and served in various senior roles on the Hill and in the Obama administration, including four years as senior counsel for the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance.

The Biden administration also announced its intent to nominate Mary Boyle, the current Executive Director of the CPSC, to be a Commissioner of the CPSC. Ms. Boyle has over a decade of experience in senior positions inside the agency and is a graduate of Georgetown University and University of Virginia School of Law. She is the second Executive Director of the agency to be nominated in recent years for a position on the Commission.

With these nominations and the administration’s proposed budget of $170 million for the CPSC in Fiscal Year 2022 (an increase of $35 million), President Biden is clearly prioritizing product safety and the CPSC. Congress already appropriated a supplemental $50 million primarily for enhanced port surveillance earlier this year, another sign of the prioritization of the agency and its mission.

The House subcommittee responsible for CPSC’s appropriations also recently proposed to exceed the administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request with $172 million in funding for CPSC. This significant increase in funding for the CPSC follows a call from Acting Chairman Adler for $281 million in yearly funding (along with a one-time infusion of $89 million) and an unlikely alliance of consumer advocates and regulated industry who called on Congress to significantly increase the agency’s budget “to ensure the agency can effectively and efficiently serve out its mission.” If confirmed, one of the most important priorities for Mr. Hoehn-Saric and the entire Commission likely will be the effective use of additional funding provided in Fiscal Year 2022 and making the case for an even larger increase for Fiscal Year 2023.

The current makeup of the commission is a 2-2 split between Democratic and Republican appointed Commissioners. Both Republican-appointed Commissioners, Dana Baiocco and Peter Feldman, have terms that end in October of 2024 and 2026, respectively. On the Democratic side, Acting Chairman Bob Adler, announced his intention to retire and leave the Commission at the end of his term this October. These nominations also indicate that Commissioner (and former Chairman) Elliot Kaye will depart the agency following the confirmation of his successor or the expiration of his one-year holdover period at the end of this October.

The potential for a new CPSC Chairman is particularly newsworthy. The CPSC has only had Acting Chairmen at the helm since then-Chairman Kaye was removed by President Trump in early 2017. Following this, former Republican Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle held the role of Acting Chair of the agency. Buerkle was twice nominated by former President Trump to assume the Chairman role. Acting Chairman Bob Adler assumed his current leadership role in October 2019 after Buerkle’s withdrawal of her second nomination and her vote to support Adler for the Acting Chairman position. In March 2020, President Trump nominated Nancy Beck to the Chairman position. Beck was not confirmed by the Senate after a contentious confirmation hearing and her nomination expired at the beginning of 2021.

Mr. Hoehn-Saric and Ms. Boyle are both extremely well qualified nominees and we look forward to their confirmation hearings. We will provide further updates as the confirmation process progresses.

Posted by Claire Temple