As the US is on the verge of reforming its outdated 40-year-old chemical regulations, one senator is blocking its progress. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) earlier this week and the Senate was expected to take up the bill yesterday and pass it with limited discussion. However, Republican Senator Rand Paul, a former presidential hopeful, has slammed on the brakes.
The chemical industry and a good part of the environmental lobby supported the bipartisan legislation, and the White House said President Obama would sign the measure into law. But Paul took to the Senate floor yesterday and blocked the vote, saying that he needs more time to review the lengthy bill. He expressed concerns over the way that the new regulation would override any chemical regulations individual states have in place.
‘This bill came here on Tuesday, it is 180 pages long, it involves new criminalisation, new crimes that will be created at the federal level,’ Paul stated. He said the bill includes a ‘new federal regime’ that would supercede chemical regulations, or lack of regulations, at the state level. ‘I think it deserves to be read, to be understood, and to be debated,’ the senator added. ‘I object to just rushing this through.’
Paul made it clear that he will continue to object to the TSCA modernisation bill until he has had time to vet it thoroughly. Unless he reverses course, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will not have the unanimous consent needed to fast-track the legislation.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said it is ‘sincerely disappointed’ by Paul’s decision to ‘stand in the way’ of efforts that would provide greater certainty and clarity to industry, and also enforce greater accountability and transparency at the Environmental Protection Agency.
‘I regret an objection to this very reasonable path forward,’ stated Republican senator David Vitter, who co-authored the legislation. He said the bill passed the Senate by voice vote with no articulated objections months ago, and the final version under consideration has been posted online for almost a week and had been publicly available for longer. ‘That unanimous consent request wasn’t rushing through anything – it was a three-hour debate and a roll call vote,’ Vitter added.
Senator Jim Inhofe, the Republican chairman of the Senate environment and public works committee, expressed confidence that the legislation will pass. ‘To put that off for two more weeks after we have been working on this for six months is not a fair way to conduct business,’ he added