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Federal Chemical Bill Earns Plaudits, Despite Dire Warnings From Kentucky Senator

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation, Congress approved a sweeping federal overhaul of chemical safety laws this week. But one lawmaker not cheering is Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul.

The U.S. Senate passed the landmark legislation updating the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act on Tuesday, but the vote would likely have come even sooner had Paul not placed a block on the bill on May 26. While the action raised the ire of some colleagues, the senator argued he had not been given enough time to read the legislation. This week, Paul lifted the block but worried aloud that the measure will usher in a regulatory feeding frenzy.

"If we are to ignore the cost of regulations, if we are to ignore the relationship between regulations and job loss,  there is basically no limit to the fervor and ferocity that will be unleashed by bureaucrats, whose perpetual mandate is to regulate," the former Republican presidential candidate warned.

The libertarian-leaning senator said allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce new uniform chemical regulations will deal a blow to the chemical business – likening the effect to the downturn in Kentucky’s coal-producing communities. Yet the bill passed with support from many industry groups.

"Everyone knows someone who got cancer at an early age or who wasn't able to conceive a child and chemical exposures are increasingly linked to those problems, so I think everybody felt it was time to upgrade this law," Richard Denison with the Environmental Defense Fund told NPR’s Ari Shapiro. 

The White House has indicated President Obama plans to sign the bill.