Monday, November 28, 2005

Goodbye (and good riddance) To The Duke

It was a dark and stormy night, March 7, 2001....

Actually, it was only dark and stormy in my memory. On the evening of March 7, 2001, I was holed up in a small office in the US Capitol building watching CSPAN while the House of Representatives conducted a "debate" that spelled the final chapter in the short life of OSHA's ergonomics standard.

The entire specticle was revolting. The House scheduled only one hour of "debate" to trash ten years of work and the hopes of tens of thousands of American workers. Now, four and a half years later, only a few "highlights" stand out in my mind. One was the speech by Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned today from the US. House of Represenatives after confessing to evading taxes and conspiring to pocket $2.4 million in bribes, including a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode.

Cunningham's speech during the ergonomics "debate" was one of those all too common moments when, while listening to a Congressman or Senator speak, you slap yourself on the head and wonder "How the hell did that guy ever get elected to Congress?"

Mr. NORWOOD. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. CUNNINGHAM), my friend.

Mr. CUNNINGHAM. Mr. Speaker, in California we have an energy crisis. We have several small businesses going out just because of the costs of energy. We have restaurants that are on a very narrow margin. Those people employ workers.

My colleagues that are opposed to this are generally from a liberal philosophy of government control. If we fall out of line like the blacklisting that the union, the Clinton-Gore administration, put out last year*, then we can control you. We can control your private profit. We can control education. We can control your business. If you do not comply, yes, we will send in the IRS or OSHA or EPA, and what we are saying is that, yes, that my colleagues would make people think that we do not want workplace safety, we are for the evil business. That is just not true.

We support the working families, and we want to give them tax relief, but my opponents, I would guarantee that over 90 percent of them that are opposed to this do not want tax relief, and they did not want the balanced budget and they did not want welfare reform, because they want government control.
* Cunningham is referring to the federal contractor responsibility rule issued by the Clinton administration in December 2000 that required federal contractors to comply with federal public health, safety, environmental and anti-discrimination laws in order to be eligible for government contracts. The regulation became effective on January 19, 2001, but was later repealed by the Bush administration.