This morning, Congressman Henry Waxman of California, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, delivered the Democratic Radio Address. In his address, Congressman Waxman discusses critical legislation passed by the House this week that addresses the health and safety of America’s children. Chairman Waxman explains, “on one single day, we passed two critically important pieces of legislation. The first, to reinvigorate the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and strengthen its ability to assure safe toys for our children. The second is legislation that provides the authority to regulate tobacco and stop tobacco companies from targeting our kids.”
Good morning. This is Congressman Henry Waxman of California, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
This was a great week in the House of Representatives for the children of America. On one single day, we passed two critically important pieces of legislation. The first, to reinvigorate the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and strengthen its ability to assure safe toys for our children. The second is legislation that provides the authority to regulate tobacco and stop tobacco companies from targeting our kids.
Over the last eight years, the key federal agencies responsible for protecting the public health have been muzzled. The CPSC became almost defunct. The Safety Commission failed to protect children against dangerous levels of lead in toys, and it did nothing to stop the use of dangerous chemicals in plastic toys. This was one of the reasons that Senator Barack Obama and I introduced legislation in 2005 to make sure we banned lead from toys, and we have been fighting these issues ever since.
When the science says that products that babies put into their mouths could be a threat to their health, the Safety Commission is supposed to act. But they did nothing.
The Food and Drug Administration is another example. That agency has floundered under chronic underfunding and weak leadership. It has been slow to recall dangerous drugs and ineffective in protecting the food supply. At the Environmental Protection Agency, opportunities to advance protecting the environment have repeatedly been squandered.
Too often, our watchdog agencies have been captured by special interests. And the people put in charge have been Republican cronies who have had little experience or interest in their government duties. Remember FEMA and Hurricane Katrina.
But this week, Congress said the public interest must come first. The House and the Senate passed the bill to protect our children and say that the Safety Commission must keep lead out of toys; ban plastic-softening chemicals, called phthalates, from the toys kids can put in their mouths; and require science, not politics or corporate interests, to guide its actions.
We also finally stood up to the tobacco companies. Fourteen years ago, I chaired the hearings at which the tobacco company CEOs swore under oath that nicotine was not addictive, cigarettes did not cause disease, and they did not target our children. Well, they of course lied.
When the Republicans took control of the Congress in the next year and controlled it for the next 12 years, efforts on tobacco were stopped.
But last year, Democrats regained the majority in the House, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made taking on the tobacco companies a top priority. And this week, we achieved an important milestone.
With strong bipartisan support, we passed long-overdue legislation to stop advertising and promotions targeted to our kids; to stop the marketing of candy-flavored cigarettes clearly designed to attract our kids to smoking; to give the FDA the power to both regulate marketing and the manufacture of tobacco products to make sure that we can remove dangerous additives like formaldehyde and ammonia and begin the process of figuring out how to make cigarettes less addictive.
Tobacco is the only product that when it's used as intended kills. Every day, 1,000 kids take up this deadly habit. And each year, over 400,000 Americans die from smoking.
I am proud to say that the House has finally passed legislation to protect our children from tobacco addiction and its devastating toll of death and disease.
We are in the final months of President Bush's last term. But through our legislative efforts, we are giving the next Administration the tools it will need to start putting public health — and especially the health of our children — first.
Government at its best can work. It was a very good week for the American public. And best of all, it was a very good week for our kids.
This is Congressman Henry Waxman. Thanks for listening.