Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of H.R. 4040, the Conference Report on Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act. The legislation passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 424 to 1. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“Today is a special day for us because this bill is long overdue and it took a New Direction Congress to work it out and bring it to the floor in the form which it is in, which is to protect America's children. But it is a special day for another reason and that is because one of the main authors of this bill, Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois, is back with us today. We are all family and to have a family member return to us in good health is something really special. He worked so hard to pass this bill the end of last year, before Christmas, so that families across America could know that Congress cared about our children.
“This bill is necessary because - does anyone not know that I'm a grandmother? My husband always says, ‘I wonder how far into your speeches it is that you start talking about your grandchildren.' But as a mother and grandmother, and as a person who serves a wider range of children in our extended family, I know that parents want to do everything they can to do the best for their children. But we have our limitations. We have to depend on the federal government to protect our children from chemicals that may be harmful to their health or even worse than that.
“2007 was dubbed the ‘Year of the Recall' by Consumers Union. More than 45 million toys and children's products were recalled last year, and some were found to contain nearly 200 times the legal amount of lead. Toy trains, costumes, magnets, balls and even baby bottles were among the common everyday items found to be harmful to our children. What is a parent to do?
“This year, dangerous toy and product recalls are happening at an even swifter rate - the number of recalls of toys and children's products is up 22 percent over the first half of last year. What is a parent to do?
“Most of the toys that are recalled should never have found their way on to the shelves of the local toy stores.
“Over the last several years, at the same time of these record toy recalls, the Consumer Product Safety Commission - which is charged with testing toys before they end up in the homes of our children- has been starved for resources. The agency lost 15 percent of its workforce between 2004 and 2007. In 2007, even the Commission's acting director complained that there was only one ‘lonely' toy tester at the commission.
“Today with this legislation, we strengthen our ability to prevent those toys from getting to market, get products off the shelves more quickly, and increase fines and penalties for violating product safety laws.
“The legislation eliminates lead beyond a minute amount in toys and other products intended for children under 12 years of age. It also bans toxic phthalates in children's toys and child care articles.
“Today the New Direction Congress is asserting our responsibility to protect children from dangerous toys. Think of that? Shouldn't that be an oxymoron? It should be a given that toys are not dangerous.
“The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is the result of the leadership of many in Congress. I would like to acknowledge and thank Chairman John Dingell and Chairman Bobby Rush. I would also like to acknowledge other leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Henry Waxman, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congresswoman Diana DeGette.
“So I salute this as a bipartisan effort on the part of our nation's most valuable resource, our children, because it is our duty to protect them. We began this Congress by calling it to order in the name of all of America's children. Today we are honoring some of our promises to them by keeping their toys and children's products safe.
“Again, I urge our colleagues to give an overwhelming, unanimous vote of support for this important legislation for the children. Thank you.”