Lawmakers celebrate passage of chemical safety reform bill

Lawmakers celebrate passage of chemical safety reform bill
© Getty Images

Lawmakers took a victory lap Wednesday to celebrate the Senate passing a major chemical safety overhaul and sending it to President Obama’s desk.

It was a long-fought battle to pass the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemicals for the 21st Century Act, and lawmakers framed it as nothing short of a miracle.


The Senate passed it by voice vote Tuesday night, following its overwhelming passage two weeks ago in the House. Obama is likely to sign it into law soon.

The bipartisan bill would dramatically overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, giving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sweeping new authority to regulate harmful chemicals while limiting states’ authority.

It’s the first major environmental bill to pass Congress since the Clean Air Act of 1990.

“This law has been in need of updating for decades,” Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line Bottom line The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE (R-La.), a lead sponsor of the legislation, told reporters Wednesday. “Every stakeholder in sight, everyone involved in this part of the economy and the law has said that. The trick has been bringing everyone together on a bipartisan basis.”

Vitter said the bill accomplishes the two goals he had set out when he joined the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in working on the bill.

“First, make sure we fully protect all Americans’ health and safety. And second, make sure we create a workable regulatory environment so that our leaders in science and innovation and technology ... can remain world leaders and continue to innovate,” Vitter said.

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 MORE (N.M.), the lead Democratic sponsor, called the feat “a great triumph of bipartisanship” and compared it to climbing a mountain.

“Most Americans think, when you go to a grocery store or you go to a hardware store and you buy a product, they think that it’s been tested for safety. It hasn’t been tested,” he said.

“Now we’re going to see that that testing takes place, and we’re going to move forward with a very tough cop on the beat, which will be the EPA, looking at the safety of products, doing that analysis.”

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who led House efforts as chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment, spoke about how long the process has taken.

“David Vitter came over five and a half years ago ... and said he was going to do this with Sen. Lautenberg, and I said, ‘come see me when you get any success,’ ” Shimkus joked.

“And then a couple years later, he popped back in, and that made us really get more serious in moving on the House side.”

Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyGOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary MORE (D-Mass.) called the legislation “a new chemical Magna Carta, a chemical bill of rights for every American that will serve as the foundation for protecting the American people from the dangers of toxic substances.”