On June 27, 2013, by unanimous consent, the United States Senate confirmed President Obama’s nominees, Marietta Robinson (a Democrat) and former Representative Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY), to fill the two vacant seats on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).1 With these new appointments, Democrats will retain control over CPSC, with three of the five seats held by Democrats.
CPSC is comprised of five Commissioners, one of whom serves as Chair, who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.2 Commissioners serve sevenyear terms, which may be extended for one year to avoid vacancies.3 Additionally, no more than three Commissioners may be affiliated with the same political party.4
Commissioner Marietta S. Robinson
Marietta S. Robinson, a Democrat, graduated from the University of Michigan- Flint and UCLA’s School of Law. Ms. Robinson is a Michigan trial attorney who has practiced law for over thirty-three years. President Obama first nominated Ms. Robinson to serve on CPSC in January 2012, to fill the seat formerly held by Thomas Hill Moore.5 Ms. Robinson’s nomination stalled in the Senate during 2012. In January 2013, after the 113th Congress was sworn in, President Obama re-nominated Ms. Robinson.6 Her term will run for seven years from October 27, 2010, when Commissioner Moore’s term ended.
In addition to her legal experience, Ms. Robinson has served as a member of the Judicial Advisory Committee for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Michigan State Building Authority, and the Michigan State Bar Representative Assembly. She served for eight years as the federally appointed trustee of Dalkon Shield Trust, paying out over US$2.3 billion to women who used the contraceptive in more than 120 countries.7 Robinson was a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers, and she served as its first female president from 2010 to 2011. Additionally, Robinson served as independent legal counsel to the Chair of the United Nations Peace Building Commission in Liberia in 2011.8 Active within Michigan politics, Robinson was a Democratic candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court in 2000 and ran for the Democratic nomination for Michigan Attorney General in 2002.9
Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle
Ann Marie Buerkle, a graduate of Le Moyne College and Syracuse University School of Law, is a former Republican U.S. Representative of New York’s 25th Congressional District where she served from 2011 to 2013. President Obama nominated Ms. Buerkle to CPSC in May 2013 to fill the seat previously held by Anne M. Northup.10 Ms. Buerkle’s term will run for seven years from October 27, 2011, when Commissioner Northup’s term ended. Prior to her election to Congress, Ms. Buerkle served twelve years as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of New York and was in private practice from 1994 to 1997. Ms. Buerkle began her career as a registered nurse at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse.11
During her time in Congress, Ms. Buerkle voted with Republican leaders 95% of the time.12 A s a Congresswoman, Ms. Buerkle advocated to reduce the size of government.13 In 2011, she was selected by House Speaker John Boehner and appointed by President Obama to serve as a United States Representative to the 66th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.14
Additional CPSC Changes on the Horizon
Looking ahead, CPSC is likely to face additional changes as other Commissioners’ terms expire. Most significantly, Chairman Inez Moore Tenenbaum’s term ends in October 2013,15 and she has publicly stated that she asked President Obama not to re-nominate her for another term.16 In addition, Republican Commissioner Nancy Nord’s term ended in October 2012, and her one-year extension expires in October 2013.17 Thus, it is possible that, as with the two most recent appointments, another Democrat and Republican will be paired to secure Senate confirmation. Finally, the term for the remaining seat, currently held by Commissioner Adler, a Democrat, ends in October 2014.18 Senate Republicans may then try to block efforts by President Obama to re-nominate Commissioner Adler or nominate another Democrat to fill his seat, in hope of regaining the White House in 2016. Republicans could then gain majority control of CPSC through appointment of a Republican to replace Commissioner Adler.