The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a new Acting Chairwoman: Commissioner (and former Congresswoman) Ann Marie Buerkle. Although no formal announcement has been made, those within the agency have acknowledged that current Chairman Elliot Kaye relinquished the chairmanship yesterday. Commissioner Buerkle, one of the two Republican members of the Commission and Vice-Chair of the Commission since January 19, assumed her new duties once Kaye announced his decision to the agency.
Former Chairman Kaye has not resigned his seat on the Commission—his announcement relates to the chairmanship only. This development presents an unusual dynamic moving forward: although the Commission will now be chaired by a member of the President’s political party, the Republicans will remain the minority party on the Commission until at least October 2017 when Democratic Commissioner Marietta Robinson’s term on the Commission expires.
Commissioners’ terms are fixed and are independent of the Administration (whichever political party is in power). Thus, absent the early resignation of a Democratic Commissioner, the Commission will be led by a Chair who does not command a 3-2 voting majority based on political party. Democratic Commissioners Kaye, Adler, and Robinson remain in the majority and incoming Acting Chair Buerkle and Commissioner Mohorovic remain in the minority.
Given this highly unusual circumstance, policy changes at the Commission are not likely to come fast; the transition will occur over the coming year. Nevertheless, Acting Chairwoman Buerkle will have additional resources at her disposal and be able to set new priorities for the Commission. We expect that Acting Chairwoman Buerkle will continue to reach out to all members of the product safety community as she has done over her tenure as a Commissioner and listen to the concerns of all stakeholders.