Monday, August 6, 2012

Senator Lautenberg Calls for Senate Vote on Safe Chemicals Act

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is calling for a vote in the full Senate on his Safe Chemicals Act. Originally introduced April 14, 2011, the bill was passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee last week. The bill is "designed to protect Americans from dangerous toxic chemicals that are found in everyday consumer products." Lautenberg now wants the bill to get a vote in the Senate.

A 174-page Amendment that documents all of the changes to the original bill (S.847) was released by the Committee. The committee also issued a short summary highlighting the key changes. These changes comprehensively alter the bill from its original "NGO-friendly" form to its now very "Industry-friendly" form. Still, Lautenberg has not been able to get any Republican to join the 25 Democratic co-sponsors of the bill. Lautenberg called on his fellow Senators to put the bill to a vote,  "either for or against." He noted that "families deserve to know" what Senators from both sides of the aisle "are thinking as we go through this process."

After languishing for nearly one and half years after its introduction, the bill took on new emphasis following an investigative reporting series by the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune reported that there had been collusion between the chemical industry and the tobacco industry to overstate the effectiveness of flame retardants and understate the health risks. A rather contentious hearing was held the day before the Committee vote, during which Senator Boxer went so far as to suggest one of the witnesses should "take a course in ethics."

It is clear that Lautenberg does not expect the bill to pass a full Senate vote since it would need to reach 60 votes to invoke cloture just to bring it to the floor for a real vote. With only 53 Democrats and Independents possibly voting for the bill and all 47 Republicans likely voting against it no matter what changes are made in debate, the bill is essentially dead on arrival. But he does feel that after 7 years of introducing bills and making substantive changes that make the bill more industry-friendly, the public should know what each Senator believes about protecting human health and the environment.

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