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.