Clinton abolishes 'Quayle Council' Gore says it was used to avoid the law

January 23, 1993|By Peter Honey | Peter Honey,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton, signaling a swift break with the Bush administration's business-oriented attitude toward environmental and consumer issues, abolished a controversial legislative review council in one of his first executive acts this week.

The dissolution of the White House Council on Competitiveness, which was chaired by former Vice President Dan Quayle, was used by Vice President Al Gore to stress his difference with his predecessor.

"Today we are sending a clear message to the special interests who used the Council on Competitiveness as a back-door to avoid the law," Mr. Gore said in a written statement. "That back door is closed."

Mr. Clinton killed the council by executive order late Thursday, at the end of his first full day in office, taking an early step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to give greater weight to environmental and consumer issues than George Bush.

But Mr. Clinton left the commenting to Mr. Gore, who, as the Senate's leading environmentalist, was a repeated and outspoken critic of President Bush's environmental policies and especially the council.

The "Quayle Council" as it was often called had the power to reject or delay regulations drawn up by federal agencies if they were unfavorable to business. This it did frequently.

Most controversial of the council's actions was its interference in the Environmental Protection Agency's attempts to issue regulations to enforce the 1990 Clean Air Act. As a result, important parts of the act did not go into effect for more than a year. They were passed only in the closing weeks of Mr. Bush's re-election effort -- apparently when it seemed the legislative deadlock was hurting Mr. Bush's chances.

Mr. Gore said the past administration used the council "as an excuse for special favors for narrow interests and back-room decisions."

The council, formed in the first three months of the Bush administration, was founded in the mistaken belief that the interests of workers, consumers and the environment conflicted with the goals of economic growth, he said.

The Clinton administration, on the other hand, believes that strong economic growth is not only compatible with, but dependent on, environmental protection.

Mr. Gore is expected to throw his weight behind the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which was invisible during the years of the Reagan and Bush administrations.

In a separate development yesterday likely to further strengthen environmentalism in the new administration, Ohio Democrat Sen. John Glenn reintroduced legislation that would elevate the EPA to full Cabinet status.

The new bill, to establish a Department of the Environment, is expected to easily pass both houses of Congress.

President Clinton has said he backs moves to transform the agency into a full department. His choice as EPA administrator, Carol M. Browner, a former Senate aide of Mr. Gore, was sworn in yesterday.

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