The ultimate Bush legacy for Big Business

THE ULTIMATE BUSH LEGACY FOR BIG BUSINESS…. Bush’s presidency may be winding down, but he’s not quite done with his conservative domestic agenda.

Bush administration officials, in their last weeks in office, are pushing to rewrite a wide array of federal rules with changes or additions that could block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states.

The administration has written language aimed at pre-empting product-liability litigation into 50 rules governing everything from motorcycle brakes to pain medicine. The latest changes cap a multiyear effort that could be one of the administration’s lasting legacies, depending in part on how the underlying principle of pre-emption fares in a case the Supreme Court will hear next month.

This amazing piece, from the Wall Street Journal’s Alicia Mundy, hasn’t generated a lot of attention so far today, and that’s a shame. The administration’s efforts on this are likely to have a huge impact.

Corporate America has been calling for some mechanism to “preempt” product-liability litigation for years, and Bush had promised to deliver. The White House, however, had limited options in dealing with a Democratic Congress which cares about consumer protections.

So, the Bush gang is adding provisions to obscure federal regulations that will block product safety lawsuits by consumers and states. The scheme would affect products ranging from cars to prescription medication to railroad cars.

But a possible Obama administration can undo this, right? If Obama wins, he’d no doubt want to, but reversing these regulations would take a long while.

These new rules can’t quickly be undone by order of the next president. Federal rules usually must go through lengthy review processes before they are changed. Rulemaking at the Food and Drug Administration, where most of the new pre-emption rules have appeared, can take a year or more.

The article is online here, and an WSJ video with Mundy talking specifically about how this affects state lawsuits is here. Take a look.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.