Washington, DC—The American Association for Justice today commended a new report exposing the Bush Administration’s unprecedented campaign to preempt state authority, weaken regulatory scrutiny, and protect corporate wrongdoing. This campaign impacts crucial health and safety regulations designed to protect American families from dangerous drugs, cars, toys, and food.
The report by the nonprofit Center for Progressive Reform, finds that the Bush Administration has forced federal agencies to claim their regulations preempt state laws, despite lacking any constitutional authority to do so. These actions contradict Congressional intent and, in many cases, the agencies’ own policies.
“This report demonstrates that the Bush Administration has waged a coordinated campaign favoring corporate irresponsibility over consumer safety,” said American Association for Justice CEO Jon Haber. “The administration is engaged in a cynical campaign to immunize big business from accountability and stack the deck against everyday Americans. We call on the Bush Administration to stop preempting health and safety standards that protect American families from the misconduct of corporate wrongdoers.”
According to the report, working through numerous agencies, the Bush Administration is attempting to preempt state laws through its regulatory rulemaking authority. The preemption provisions are often slipped in at the last minute without any chance for public comment, much to the alarm of the agencies’ own staff and despite comment and consultation periods that lasted as much as five years.
Among the preemption measures:
- The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared its rules on seatbelts and roof-crush resistance would preempt state common-law claims, despite previously rejecting the concept. Senators Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy wrote to NHTSA criticizing the agency for claiming grounds for preemption without any congressional authority.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared a rule on drug labeling preempted state tort law despite the fact that the agency had long held the opposite view. Senators Edward Kennedy and Chris Dodd lambasted the agency and described the move as “a drastic reversal of policy with … far-reaching implications.”
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also adopted preemption provisions, despite the fact that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had expressly rejected such an approach just a year earlier. Committee Chairman Senator Joseph Lieberman, expressed his outrage, saying, “state and local protections are critical companions to our effort at the Federal level and should not be displaced.” DHS he said, “should remain silent on preemption, as Congress did and as it intended the Department to do.”
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have been criticized for trying to preempt state law.
The issue will be the subject of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow (11 a.m., Sept. 12, 226 Dirksen): “Regulatory Preemption: Are Federal Agencies Usurping Congressional and State Authority?" Testifying at tomorrow’s Judiciary Committee will be report co-author David Vladeck and attorney Collyn Peddie.