During the July 7th House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight Subcommittee hearing on regulatory reform among independent agencies (a hearing which presumably prompted Obama's Executive Order two business days later), Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) trotted out one of the most common arguments against change:
"I want to talk . . . about the recent proposals on the other side of the aisle that would undermine the Consumer Product Safety Commission and some of the other good work that they've done. Three years ago, this Committee and this Congress worked hard in a significantly bipartisan manner to put meaningful reforms for consumers into the [CPSIA]. This has yielded unbelievable benefits. . . . So I think it's important to know this, that these reforms were worked out by this Committee in one of the last great efforts that was completely bipartisan. We should embrace that."
This is a familiar argument by Dems. The law passed almost unanimously, guys, so it's wrong to try to change the law now.
What logical point is DeGette making here? How is this argument supposed to persuade us?
At first, I thought the Dems were simply arguing the infallibility of Congress. Congress never errs, so how can we doubt something every Congressman voted for? Congress is all-knowing and cannot pass a bill without doing the right thing. [And as Obamacare indicates, Congress apparently doesn't even need to read the bills to get them right.]
To argue that this law is a product of infallible judgment is quite a leap. Even the unanimity of the law hardly explains the mental state of Congress at the time. Congress was ANGRY. Have you ever said or done anything in anger you later regretted? 'Nuf said.
No, an infallible Congress cannot be what Ms. DeGette is pushing. Actually, I think it's far simpler. She is saying that the Dems were right and are still right and have no need or interest in changing their position. She points out that the two parties agreed on the law's text in 2008 and passed it almost unanimously. Now the Republicans want to make serious changes. She says the Republicans should return to their bipartisan brothers, the Dems, and support the work they did three years ago. She essentially calls into question the motivation of the Republicans in opposing the Dems now, suggesting that this is a by-product of a broken Washington, where partisan posturing is all we can expect from these people.
At the heart of her reasoning is the fact that the Dems are holding their course behind the law, and the Republicans have moved, and now she wants the Republicans to be more "bipartisan" by returning dutifully to agreement with the unwavering Dems. Or is it the intransigent Dems? A matter of perspective, I suppose. Come back to the fold with the Dems! DeGette's argument relieves the Dems of any obligation to reconsider ANYTHING. How convenient. How Waxman-like.
Here's something the Dems won't tell you - the law was jammed down the throats of the Republicans in both Houses of Congress. Congress was controlled by Nancy Pelosi at the time (she of San Francisco, of course). The CPSIA was purpose-built for getting Democrats elected and was not negotiated with the Republicans in any sense you would recognize. On the national stage, the Obama wave was cresting at that time, too, so what do you think the political calculation was in the Bush White House and in the Minority ranks in either House on the CPSIA? The Republicans knew that any opposition to any aspect of this law, regardless of how awful, would mean attack TV commercials on support for children's safety at a time of great electoral vulnerability. Bush agreed to sign the bill to protect his party, not to protect kids. At least it neutralized a possibly existential political threat. Each Republican Congressman or Senator had to make a similar political calculation. Only four people (Ron Paul and three Senators) were politically courageous enough to stand up against this excessive bill. It is certain that far more than four members of Congress found fault with the CPSIA at the time.
The 2008 "great bipartisan effort" that DeGette romanticizes is an urban legend, a fiction, a fairy tale, a story. She wants to cow the Republicans into losing their political nerve at this critical juncture when some kind of momentum behind our position may actually be growing. She wants them to think ballot box.
And for those of you who pepper me with defense of Dems or reminders of past Republican "sins", all I can say is this: the Republicans have nothing to gain politically from their three-year effort to right this wrong. They are taking electoral risks to help us, and have been unwavering in their support of our mission. I can only believe that this is because they actually are trying to do the right thing. This has never been about policy or safety. The Republicans know that this issue has been played for political gain by the Dems with no remorse over the devastation they have wrought to your businesses, your markets or job creation. For them, it's just too juicy an opportunity to get reelected. And if that's so, it must be the reverse for the Republicans. The Republicans are taking this risk on your behalf, for your benefit.
I hope there's a nice occasion to say "thank you". In the meantime, the likes of Diana DeGette must be vanquished.