It is called The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173).
This is a bill that has been passed by the House of Representatives, and is coming up soon for vote in the Senate. According to the bill’s summary, this bill is …
“To provide for financial regulatory reform, to protect consumers and investors, to enhance Federal understanding of insurance issues, to regulate the over-the-counter derivatives markets, and for other purposes.”
Here’s the skeptical angle: since its passing by the House in December 2009, Congressman Henry Waxman has inserted an amendment to the bill that gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the authority to regulate the dietary supplement industry, which is currently under the “watchful eye” of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via the existing legislation, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
If the bill passes the Senate, the bill will go back to the House for another vote with any amendments that the Senate comes up with, along with Representative Waxman’s amendment. Upon re-passing in the House with the amendments, it will go to The President’s desk for his signature, thereby becoming the law of the land.
On its own merit, that is to say, standing on its own as its own bill, the Waxman amendment does not have the votes to pass. This is precisely why bills become amendments that get attached to more popular legislations – they piggy back themselves into law on legislation that is likely to pass.
I find myself in a quandary. I know that the attempt to regulate the vitamin industry through DSHEA (which became law in 1994) has been a failure. In the words of Steven Novella:
“Simply put, DSHEA is pro-industry, anti-consumer regulation. It has established a system in which companies are functionally not held accountable for the safety of their products or the claims that they make for them, and there is no incentive to fund meaningful research. DSHEA should be repealed. The concept of structure and function claims should be abolished. Also, the idea of allowing companies to decide for themselves whether or not their product is a drug or a supplement must be eliminated.”
However, I am a believer and supporter of laws, and I am also a strong proponent of open government. I am against sneaking bills into law on the coat tails of other bills. I agree with the opponents of this bill that the method is sneaky and underhanded.
And I also understand that this is a fundamental problem with how our political culture has evolved. The Framers of The Constitution never intended these kinds of methods and measures for our Congress to make laws. Yet here we are, and this is how laws in the United States get passed these days.
So what do I do? Do I stand up and cheer that that tighter regulation of the dietary supplement industry under the authority of the FTC is on a path to becoming a reality? Or do I stand up and protest the means being used to achieve this public good?
Do the ends justly the means?