The Checkout

Product Safety Reform Becomes Law Today

Today, President Bush has put pen to paper and -- voila! -- the product safety reform legislation becomes law.

It is not a public signing, which is too bad. I personally want to see yet another lawmaker brandishing Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora the Explorer as if they were hand grenades. Also, I will now lose track of how many children and grandchildren various members of Congress have because they will now stop prefacing their opening statements with an updated tally.

Without a public signing ceremony, we'll just have to be satisfied with the enrollment ceremony that congressional leaders hosted on August 1. (During the ceremony, Speaker Nancy Pelosi had an "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan" moment when she said: "Raising a family is the most challenging task anyone can undertake. Doing it prepares you for have to be focused, organized, disciplined, have good interpersonal skills, know how to cook and drive and at the same time never take your eyes off the children.")

The contrast between the Pelosi & Co. celebratory moment at the podium and the president signing the bill on the QT raises a political question: why wouldn't the White House want to take more public credit for product safety reform?

Granted, the Administration opposes parts of it, but consumer and business groups don't love every inch of it either. And it is an election year, last I checked.

In fact, I haven't heard much about product safety in any political ads that I've seen so far, which is curious. It seems like a no-brainer issue to stump on. But this could be why I don't cover politics.

In the name of nostalgia, let's revisit some highlights of the events that led up to this day.

June 2007 Thomas and Friends products are recalled for containing lead paint. Yuppie red alert.

Aug. 2007 Mattel announces the first of several recalls. By year's end, the company will have recalled more than 20 million toys for containing lead paint and dangerous magnets. The affected playthings include Elmo and Barbie products. Everyone freaks out more.

Sept. 2007 The U.S. Senate holds a hearing. For the first time maybe ever at a Consumer Product Safety Commission hearing, paid line standers for industry lobbyists outnumber beleaguered consumer advocates in the pre-hearing queue. The jaw of U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski goes slack.

Inside, as lawmakers grill Consumer Product Safety Commission Acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord, fellow commissioner Thomas Moore gets up to go to the dentist.

Nov. 2007 Several children in the U.S. and Australia fall into comas after swallowing craft beads called Aqua Dots in the States. Turns out that as the beads were digested, they broke down into a substance that is known as a date rape drug. Further investigation reveals that a Chinese manufacturer unknowingly replaced Aqua Dots glue with a different adhesive.

Dec. 2007 The legislation is stalled, despite House Democrats stated wish to pass product safety reform in time for the holiday shopping season as a symbolic gift to consumers. Consumers instead get a symbolic lump of coal in their stockings.

Jan. 2008 CPSC loses quorum and the ability to levy fines and initiate lawsuits against recalcitrant makers of dangerous products. Quorum won't be restored until the pending legislation takes effect.

Feb. 2008 to July 2008 Behind-the-scenes debate over the legislation drags on. And on. And on.

July 31 2008 Congress approves the final version of the legislation and sends it to the President to sign.

By Annys Shin |  August 14, 2008; 10:36 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Bush doesn't care about the CPSC. He has left it crippled since Chairman Stratton left over two years ago. It was originally a five person commission, dropped to three in the 80s, but has had two commisioners for about half of the past 7 years.

Nov 2001-Aug 2002 (10 months)
Oct 2004-April 2005 (6 months)
July 2006-now (25 months)

Total: 41 of the past 84 months!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 21, 2008 8:57 AM

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