WASHINGTON ― It looks like President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nancy Beck, isn’t going anywhere.
It’s just math. Beck’s nomination doesn’t appear to have the votes to clear the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a committee member, announced her opposition earlier this month, which would put the vote count at a 13-13 tie if every other Republican voted yes and every Democrat voted no. A tie means Beck almost certainly doesn’t advance.
There’s no reason to believe any Democrat on the committee would vote yes, given the strong objections to Beck’s nomination by virtually every environmental and consumer advocacy group you can think of.
HuffPost reached out to all 12 Democrats on the panel. Some responded; some didn’t. Most have already publicly announced their opposition.
All told, 11 say they would oppose Beck: Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.). One hasn’t publicly said: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).
There’s even a chance the committee won’t bother to vote on Beck’s nomination.
Beck, a former chemical industry lobbyist named to a high-level post at the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump, has been rewriting chemical safety rules to make them less protective of consumers and more friendly to businesses.
She’s drawn particular criticism over her record on perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a class of toxic chemicals found in many consumer products and in firefighting foam used at military bases. They are linked to various cancers and other diseases, decreased fertility and birth defects. According to documents obtained and released by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Beck was the driving force behind a White House effort to weaken a final EPA rule on PFAS. She even asked the agency to create a special loophole for importers of PFAS-tainted products.
That’s why Capito is opposing her.
“Dr. Nancy Beck’s record as it relates to PFAS chemicals, as well as her responses to my questions and the questions of other Senators at yesterday’s Commerce Committee hearing have led me to conclude that she is not the right person to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Capito said in a June 17 statement. “The CPSC chairman should be someone who applies the proper balance between protecting public health and the environment and the needs of our economy. I will vote against Dr. Beck’s confirmation in both the Commerce Committee and on the Senate floor.”
There’s a chance that another Republican or two on the committee, especially those in tight reelection campaigns (like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner), would vote no, too.
A Gardner spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman of the commerce committee, wouldn’t say when or if he will schedule a vote on Beck. She said committee members are currently submitting follow-up questions to Beck and others who recently testified before the panel, which can add weeks to the proceedings. Nominees aren’t considered for a committee vote until this process is over, said the spokeswoman.
If Beck doesn’t have the votes to advance, it’s possible the chairman could take the unusual route of reporting her nomination to the full Senate “unfavorably” or without any recommendation. But it’s far more common for a committee to simply take no action on a nomination when the votes aren’t there.
At least one other Republican senator who isn’t on the committee is already opposed to Beck, too: Susan Collins of Maine.
“Based on her record at the Environmental Protection Agency and at the White House, I do not believe that Dr. Nancy Beck’s views on chemical safety, including on PFAS substances and asbestos, align with the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s mission,” Collins said in a statement. “I plan to oppose her nomination to lead the CPSC.”
This article has been updated to reflect Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office confirming that she would oppose Beck.