Michael Baroody, President Bush's choice to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has withdrawn his nomination amid strong opposition from Democrats.
The White House says it has reluctantly accepted his decision. White House spokeswoman Emily Larimore told NPR that "after some members of the Senate rushed to judgment about Mr. Baroody and his qualifications, it became evident to Mr. Baroody that he would not be confirmed."
Baroody is executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers. NAM is the largest trade association for manufacturers. The group lobbies on behalf of many of the companies that make the products that the CSPC regulates.
Democrats raised questions about a $150,000 severance payment that Baroody would have received upon leaving NAM, saying it would create a potential conflict of interest. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) also had placed an official hold on his appointment.
"If you want to guard the interests of the hens, you don't put the fox in charge of the henhouse," Nelson said.
Durbin pointed to the National Association of Manufacturers' efforts to fend off regulations that would have expedited recalls of dangerous children's products and toughened requirements for reporting product hazards.
The White House defended Baroody, saying he was selected because of his "strong commitment to protecting American consumers, his proven leadership ability and his over three decades of experience with labor, policy, manufacturing and safety issues."
In addition to working at the National Association of Manufacturers, Baroody served as assistant labor secretary and in the White House during the Reagan administration.
The controversy over the nomination reflects the broader debate between congressional Democrats and the Bush administration regarding who should head regulatory agencies. Democrats and some consumer groups accuse the Bush administration of nominating people who oppose the mission of the agencies they are supposed to lead. But business groups say regulators should understand the industries they're regulating.
National Association of Manufacturers President John Engler said Baroody was the victim of an "unprincipled smear campaign."
"Watching this abuse of process, apparently without consequence for the wrongdoers, makes me wonder why any qualified citizen would submit to run today's Senate gauntlet," he said.
The three-member Consumer Product Safety Commission has lacked a chairman since July of 2006. Under federal law, CPSC can operate with two commissioners for just six months, so the panel has been unable to vote on new federal rules or new civil penalties since January of this year.
The Bush administration says it will immediately begin searching for another qualified candidate.