Baroody bolts prior to confirmation hearing

Following sustained criticism from Senate Democrats, Michael Baroody, the industry lobbyist whom President Bush wanted to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission, withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday — just one day prior to a hearing on the nomination.

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“Mr. Baroody is a consummate professional, but his ties to the industries he would have had to regulate were just too strong, creating at least the appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in response to the withdrawal. “We hope the White House won’t try a recess appointment, but will work with members of the committee on a new nominee that doesn’t have apparent conflicts of interest.”

Nelson was among the most vocal opponents of the nomination and had placed a hold on Baroody earlier this month. Other lawmakers had also criticized Baroody, who is currently a lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers.

“Baroody’s professional actions and background are inconsistent with the mission of this important watchdog agency,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) posted earlier on The Hill’s Congress Blog. “This agency is far too important to allow someone to lead it down the path of protecting businesses, rather than meeting the responsibility of fully protecting our families.”

Nelson had met privately with Baroody on Monday, asking him to explain a six-figure severance package that he would have received from the trade organization. The senator also requested that Baroody, whose nomination was vehemently opposed by consumer-safety groups, produce copies of the severance agreement as well as recent amendments to the document prior to the Commerce Committee’s confirmation hearing that was scheduled for Thursday.