In the wake of a private meeting between Henry Waxman and Joe Barton this morning, today's mark-up of the Waxman Amendment 2.0 (Consumer Product Safety "Enhancement" Act of 2010) has been CANCELLED. It had already been pushed back to 2 PM EST for a supposed "scheduling conflict". The content of the Waxman-Barton meeting is not known, however Mr. Waxman has been adamant that he would not proceed with this bill if there was ANY opposition. At a mark-up, the opposition has the right to introduce amendments. This is what Mr. Waxman intended to avoid. Perhaps that was not longer in his control, which may have led to the cancelled mark-up session.
What are the next steps? It's not certain at this point. There is an agreement in place between the Dems (Waxman) and Republicans (Barton) that ALL bills will pass through mark-up and subcommittee prior to committee consideration. IF this agreement is still being observed (no exceptions), then this bill only moves forward AFTER a mark-up. If there will be no mark-up session that features amendments, then this bill may be on life support in its present form. That suggestion is based on too many assumptions to set out here, but that may be the reality.
Another possibility is that this meeting featured a much stronger push for a hearing. Believe it or not, our pain and suffering has been noted. In addition, the evidence of insanity set in motion by the noxious CPSIA is mounting. Rumors swirl that a real legislative hearing may come next. Don't hold your breath . . . but it's possible. Real companies telling about their real issues.
The legislation, which I strongly oppose, has garnered the support of several key corporate players, like the ATV industry, the bike folks, the mass market retailers (no need to shed a tear for them anymore, I guess) and even little HTA. Some of them have practically gushed over these meager gains, perhaps haunted by the threat (implied or otherwise) that to spurn this attempt is to get nothing. No one wants to cut their nose off despite their face. This is how we compromise ourselves to hell, frankly. I remain opposed to a defective and unworkable legislative scheme that reduces our regulators to paper pushers, our financial statements to shreds and elevates our tort lawyers and safety testers to unknown new heights - all without making a MATERIAL positive impact on children's safety.
Please spare me the retort about falling recall rates. That really isn't the right metric. After all, we could all go out of business and recalls would fall to zero. A squeeze induced by sabre-rattling regulators wielding big penalties can cause a lot of "reform" at huge expense - but produce no results.
The right metric is injuries and deaths. Has the handiwork of Mr. Waxman and Ms. Tenenbaum led to statistically significant lower injuries and deaths? Well, my statistical analysis of lead-in paint recalls in a 25-month period from January 2007 - January 2009 showed 125 recalls (an all-time high) . . . and one injury, no deaths. That's what we are trying to improve upon. And if anything has actually changed since then, what did it cost? Do our markets function anymore? Under the CPSIA, there are already about 2500 pages of rules for companies like ours to master, implement and obey. Wait until I summarize the so-called "15 Month Rule" for you - the children's market is on a death march to oblivion.
Until the CPSIA is restored to sanity, we are facing a terrible end. Everything about safety in children's products has been fouled by the CPSIA and the pending amendment, the new "enhancement" cooked up by the Dems, is completely off the mark. We can only hope that members of Congress with the courage of their convictions and a dash of common sense will continue to push for rationality in our safety laws and regulations. That's our only hope.