Elections Have Consequences

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 5, 2011

And the most meaningful consequence of the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives today may not be the end of Nancy Pelosi’s Speakership. Rather, it may be the end of Henry Waxman’s chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walter Olson explains why:

Some lawmakers can talk a decent game about lean ‘n’ smart regulation, but no one ever accused Waxman of having a light touch. (The 900-page Waxman-Markey environmental bill, mercifully killed by the Senate, included provisions letting Washington rewrite local building codes.) He’s known for aggressive micromanagement even of agencies run by putative allies: his staff has repeatedly twisted the ears of Obamanaut appointees to complain that their approach to regulation is too moderate and gradual. More than any other lawmaker on the Hill, he’s stood in the way of any meaningful reform of the 2008 CPSIA law, which piles impractical burdens on small makers of children’s products, thrift stores, bicycles and others.

Like his predecessor, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Waxman and his subcommittee chairs have famously used hearings as a club to discipline interest groups that don’t cooperate. Last spring he menaced large employers with hearings after several of them announced (contrary to some predictions) that ObamaCare was going to hurt their bottom lines. In September, subcommittee chair Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) announced hearings on regulating precious-metal companies, in a remarkable press release that devoted much attention to the firms’ role in sponsoring “several conservative pundits … including Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, and Fred Thompson. By drumming up public fears during financially uncertain times, conservative pundits are able to drive a false narrative,” the release said. In other words, the committee was investigating private firms in part because it disapproved of their advertising on, and reinforcing the economic message of, conservative talk shows. Didn’t anyone on Weiner’s staff have a sudden overhead flash about the whole “First Amendment” idea? Or had that particular light bulb been banned too?

Read the whole thing. Of course, it ought to shock us that no one in the mainstream media picked up on, and reported the abuses engaged in by the committee under Waxman’s leadership. Waxman engaged in one abuse of power after another–and helped facilitate abuses of power by other members as well. A competent press corps would have condemned his activities loudly and repeatedly.

And while we are discussing this general subject, would the press corps be kind enough to admit that it never ought to have portrayed the Democratic party as a chief defender of the First Amendment? No political party devoted to the concepts of free speech and free expression would have tolerated Waxman’s activities for a single moment.

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