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Democratic Gall
August 2, 2001

While the Senate sweats VA appropriations and the Agriculture Supplemental Authorization bill today, the main attraction is being staged elsewhere. At the Commerce Committee, a battle of ideologies is raging. Championing the liberal line is a carefully-coiffed blonde in a designer pantsuit from, um, New York. Her opponent, a gray-haired matron who looks more like a grandmother than a gladiator, is an embattled conservative with an apparent affinity for flammable pajamas and killer cribs.

Meet Mary Sheila Gall, President Bush's choice to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission and latest target of Senator Hillary. The Queen of Chappaqua isn't a member of the Commerce Committee, yet she's leading the charge to discredit Gall. Her battlecry: the one-size-fits-all Clinton reason - "for the children." For the state would be more accurate.

There's a reason the 12 Democrats on the Commerce Committee have locked arms to deny Mary Sheila Gall a hearing before the full Senate, and it's not just because Hillary said so. Contrary to their claims, the accusers turned guardian angels aren't just vexed about combustible dishwashers and collapsible strollers. Their real complaint is philosophic. Seems Ms. Gall, a 10-year veteran of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, isn't a standard issue bureaucrat. She's takes a dim view of new regulation, shows no interest in expanding the agency's reach, and is woefully willing to work with industry on improving products.

Exhibit A in the liberals' case: A letter Ms. Gall penned to USA Today last year in which she admitted, "It has become increasingly frustrating, in recent years, to witness the procession of proclamations issued by this agency on behalf of the federal Nanny State." Add to this damning admission the nominee's confession that she is an "adherent of limited government," and "promoter of industry's setting and adhering to voluntary safety standards." And it gets worse. While serving on the Commission, Ms. Gall suggested that parental supervision might be more effective than souped-up bath seats for keeping unattended tots from drowning in the tub. Similarly, in 1994 decision she said of murderous baby walkers, "The problem here is not with the walker but with the failure of those entrusted with caring for small children to exercise appropriate supervision."

Responsibility rather than regulation? No wonder Hillary's queasy. It's enough to make any liberal ill -- and may be enough to cost Mary Sheila Gall the top job at CPSC.

Her sentence will be handed down today, and if Washington watchers have the nose count right, she'll become the first Bush nominee rejected by the newly minted Democrat majority. And she's not likely to be the last. By the White House's count, of the 315 nominees Bush has named to posts requiring Senate confirmation, only 132 - 42% -- have been heard. Compare that to President Clinton's 76% confirmation rate or the elder Bush's 66% batting average over the same time period.

Any who buy Daschle's bipartisan natter probably believed Bill Clinton's pronouncement that the era of big government is over. No and no again. For all their talk of working with the President, Senate Democrats have raised a roadblock over the confirmation gauntlet. Emblazoned across it: Conservatives need not apply.

The state's enforcers stand ready to take casualties on behalf of their agenda. But if the White House believes it is in the right, it will match their resolve and bombard the barricade with another "adherent of limited government." And another. And another. Otherwise today's likely loss will be in vain. Regrets to Mary Sheila Gall and the Commission she should have led.

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