Representative Issa just asked Secretary LaHood whether our ownership stake in GM has caused the NHTSA to ease off on the level of scrutiny the company's cars are subject to. This seems not particularly plausible--if nothing else, the timeframe's a little short for any serious regulatory capture to have developed. But if this heralds a Republican strategy to bring up the despised automaker bailout at every opportunity, the hearing seems likely to further degenerate as Democrats start using their time to defend the bailout, rather than, I don't know, investigating the seriousness of the problems with Toyotas.
I can't say I'm particularly impressed with LaHood's performance
thus far, which mostly consists of bland generalities about the
wonderfulness of safety, and off-topic pleas for the power to regulate
local transit systems with the same acumen that brought you . . . well,
this hearing. But to be fair, he's faced with a congress that seems
mostly interested in grandstanding, so that turnabout demands that he
gets to grandstand too.
The strangest part of
this, actually, is the sight of a government employee demanding less
funding for his agency. One of the talking points that the Republicans
seem to have settled on is that NHTSA may be understaffed; they are
asking him if they can't appropriate more money for engineers and other
personnel. As a loyal member of the Obama administration, LaHood is
being forced to argue that he doesn't need any more staff than the 66
new positions requested in the administration's proposed budgets. Mark
your calendars, folks; this may be a first in American history.
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down