The July 4th holiday weekend started a tad late for those of us who practice in the field of consumer product safety. Late Friday afternoon, the White House announced that President Biden has nominated two new commissioners to serve on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)—Alexander Hoehn-Saric and Mary Boyle. Both are Democrats and, once confirmed, will shift the balance of power at the Commission to a 3-2 split between Democrats and Republicans. This development is significant to say the least—the Democrats have not held three seats on the Commission since May 2018 and there has not been a permanent chairman of the agency since President Trump removed then-Chairman (and now Commissioner) Elliot Kaye in February 2017.
If confirmed, Mr. Hoehn-Saric will become the new—permanent—chairman of the Commission, while Ms. Boyle will replace Commissioner Kaye who is currently serving in his “hold-over” year as his term expired last October. Current Acting Chairman Robert Adler will remain on the Commission as the third Democratic commissioner until his term expires in October and he retires from the agency as previously announced. These three will be joined by current Republican Commissioners Peter Feldman and Dana Baiocco to give the five-member Commission a full complement of commissioners. Of course, if these nominations stall and/or current members of the Commission depart the agency in the coming months (e.g., Adler), other possibilities with respect to the balance of power are conceivable.
Assuming confirmation, Mr. Hoehn-Saric will come to the CPSC from Capitol Hill where he currently serves as Chief Counsel for the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology at the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Mr. Hoehn-Saric has also served previously in various senior roles on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Department of Commerce, Federal Communications Commission, and Charter Communications. His resume in both the public and private sectors is impressive, and he is knowledgeable and well-versed in consumer product safety law and the activities of the Commission.
Ms. Boyle, too, is known to all in the product safety community as she is the current Executive Director of the CPSC, and has spent many years in various senior positions at the agency, including in the Office of General Counsel. The White House press release says it best—Ms. Boyle’s work “has covered a broad range of issues, including policy, administration, legal questions, budgets, product recalls, negotiations, rules and regulations, and agency morale.” In short, Ms. Boyle is a highly qualified and well-respected member of the product safety community who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area to the position of commissioner. Interestingly, Ms. Boyle is the second Executive Director of the agency recently nominated for the Commission, as President Obama nominated then-Executive Director Elliot Kaye to be Chairman.
Time will tell if the Senate moves these nominations quickly, at least providing each nominee with a confirmation hearing prior to the summer recess in August. But these nominations, approximately five months after Inauguration, clearly show that the Biden Administration is prioritizing consumer safety and seeking to ensure that the Democrats return to a 3-2 balance on the Commission—particularly as Congress increases funding for various agency activities.
We congratulate both Mr. Hoehn-Saric and Ms. Boyle on their nominations and look forward to working with each in the months and years ahead.