In an amazing development, Henry Waxman has noticed up a hearing for next Thursday to go over the issues bedeviling the CPSIA. Waxman staffers had routinely dismissed any possibility of a hearing for some time now, asserting that we had all "jawboned" enough and that they had heard it all already. That's right, already heard it all.
Hmmm, it appears someone must have disagreed with that assessment. There promises to be a bit more time for jawboning after all!
This morning's meeting between Mr. Waxman and Mr. Barton apparently included a third participant, Rep. John Dingell. Mr. Dingell (currently the longest-serving Congressman) is the ex-Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He is also the original sponsor of the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1972, the act which created the CPSC 38 years ago. Mr. Dingell cares a great deal about this agency and the CPSIA, and according to my sources, stood with Mr. Barton in asking for a hearing to air out implementation and other issues under the CPSIA. This is why the mark-up was cancelled today. The agreement of the three leaders to hold this hearing means that it is likely to actually happen . . . unlike several prior proposed or scheduled hearings on the CPSIA.
The hearing is said to be for the purpose of testimony by regulated companies and trade associations about the problems under the law. This is a fabulous opportunity to Let the Sun Shine In. By going on the official record, witnesses to this debacle will make it much harder for the zealots to deny the seriousness of the CPSIA's problems.
Some people fear that reworking the Waxman Amendment after this hearing may open the door for the return of the hated "sneaky" provisions in the original draft of the bill. While I suppose that could happen, it doesn't strike me as likely. Those provisions caused howls of protests from many quarters and were removed. Perhaps they were tossed into the original draft to create something to give away. In any event, there is good reason for those provisions to be gone. I think it's a risk worth bearing.
More importantly, it seems unlikely that much-needed structural repairs of our federal safety law would ever become part of the amendment in the absence of a hearing. After all, our "jawboning" didn't do the trick. I think there was strong sentiment among influential members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that a fix should be done "right" and that the Waxman Amendment failed to address the fundamental issues. Their fear was that the problems wouldn't go away in the wake of the Waxman Amendment, and therefore, the issue would end up back in committee in due course. Maybe they've had enough of this issue and want it fixed, once and for all.
Hey, a real fix sounds good to me. We can all look forward to a true airing of the issues in a week's time.