Toy safety legislation predicted

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- The Senate and House could pass a package of laws designed to crack down on dangerous toys and other unsafe products by year's end, congressional leaders said yesterday.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said he is pushing to attach the product safety reforms to a farm bill the Senate is scheduled to consider before it adjourns for the year. Those reforms would include more than doubling the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission by 2015, increasing the agency's power to inspect and recall products and mandating additional testing for children's products.

Leading product-safety advocates in the House said they expect to vote on a similar package before breaking for the holidays.

The efforts have won bipartisan support as they work their way through both chambers. But they face opposition from the Bush administration, including CPSC acting head Nancy Nord, who has told Congress the agency doesn't need more money.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Durbin criticized the administration's response to what he called an "unprecedented" wave of toy recalls this year, including toys laced with toxic lead paint or packed with deadly powerful magnets.

Noting that 95 percent of the recalled toys were made in China, he asked, "Why does buying toys this year seem like Chinese roulette?"

Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, challenged the administration to increase the safety agency's budget by at least 10 percent in its next budget request.

He also asked the president to improve the CPSC's Web site to better help consumers find recall information, to work with Congress to fill vacant seats on the commission and to halt all agency staff travel sponsored by companies the commission regulates.

Jim Tankersley writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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