Rep. Waxman Says Congress Is Overcoming Years of GOP Neglect

The Democratic-controlled Congress is working to overcome years of neglect by the Bush administration of agencies intended to safeguard the health of the public, especially children, a leading Democrat said Saturday.

Rep. Henry Waxman said in his party's weekly radio address that Congress is "giving the next administration the tools it will need to start putting public health — and especially the health of our children — first."

Congress took action this week to protect the health of children, strengthening rules for the Consumer Product Safety Commission concerning toy safety and restricting marketplace practices used by the tobacco industry to target children.

The California Democrat called "it was a very good week for the American public."

Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said: "It's stunning Democrats would claim to have a great week after failing to vote on let alone pass an energy plan. On the No. 1 issue facing most Americans — gas prices — the Democrats in Congress have failed to deliver any relief."

The Senate on Thursday passed and sent to the White House legislation that bans lead from children's toys and seeks to ensure that chemicals posing possible health problems will not end up on toys and articles that kids chew on and play with. The Senate voted 89-3 for the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act after the House passed the bill Wednesday by 424-1.

"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," Waxman said in explaining the need for legislation to strengthen the CPSC.

In the other action Waxman referred to, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that for the first time would subject the tobacco industry to regulation by federal health authorities charged with promoting public well-being.

The bill would further tighten restrictions on tobacco advertising and impose new federal penalties for selling to minors. But its most far-reaching provisions would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco, from cigarettes to new kinds of smokeless products.

Public health advocates supporting the bill say regulation will slowly but surely put pressure on the industry, reducing the overall number of smokers and the harm that is caused by tobacco use.

It was unclear whether the Senate will have time to act on the tobacco measure and the Bush administration issued a veto threat this week.