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Congressional handiwork

In Congress’ rush to include all sorts of special-interest largess in President Obama’s economic "stimulus" boondoggle, lawmakers decided to leave out a critical amendment that would have met the bill’s stated goal of preserving jobs.

The proposal from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., would have made significant changes to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which imposed tougher lead-content standards on children’s products effective Feb. 10.

The law was passed last year in response to the widespread recall of Chinese-made toys contaminated with lead-based paint. But the law did not specifically limit the new lead standard to toys and products that can easily find their way into a child’s mouth. Instead, it was written to include every product made for children age 12 and younger.

And it left the creation of lead-testing protocols and enforcement guidelines to the regulators at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

As a result, it has wreaked considerable havoc on businesses of all sizes and entire industries. Less than a month ago, thousands of entrepreneurs involved in the manufacture and sale of everything from books to clothes to wooden toys were confronted with the prospect of spending more to test their products than they could sell them for. The law’s reach even included nonprofit thrift stores, for-profit secondhand shops, eBay sellers and yard sales. Thousands of products — even those that obviously contained no metal — were at risk of being deemed illegal to sell in a single day.

But of all the industries that are trying to deal with crippling new regulatory costs, none faces more damage than growing youth motorsports and racing businesses. All over the United States, shops with tens of millions of dollars in combined inventories have been moving motorcycles, go-carts and all-terrain vehicles into holding rooms. Numerous parts, including tire stem valves, batteries, brake components and frame alloys, have newly illegal levels of lead. Never mind that no child could ever lick them long enough to get lead poisoning.

Under the law, there is no saving these expensive, in-demand products. It is illegal for anyone to sell them until Congress says otherwise.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been working to minimize the effect of the flawed legislation, moving two weeks ago to delay testing requirements and issue exemptions for most types of clothes and books. But it can’t make the law go away.

Sen. DeMint’s amendment would have spared a lot of this pain by, among other common-sense provisions, preventing retroactive enforcement. The Democratic Congress’ refusal to consider it will cost people their jobs.

It’s further proof that members of Congress never stop to consider the consequences of their handiwork — especially if it is intended to protect kids.

"Protecting children from toy toxins is a good idea, but we need to do it the right way," Sen. DeMint wrote in a commentary for RealClearPolitics.com, "to make sure there are still jobs waiting for them when they grow up."

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