When regular citizens come up to Capitol Hill to tell their stories about whatever evil has befallen them—foreclosure, food poisoning, etc.—members of Congress, as a rule, treat them gently, even if they don’t agree with the bill those citizens have come to support. Yesterday, though, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) seemed to have forgotten that rule during a hearing on a bill that would ban the use of forced arbitration in automobile sale and leasing contracts.
More after the jump…
Ohio resident Erika Rice appeared before the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law to share her story of buying a lemon from a car dealer that then refused to take back the car, leaving her stuck with payments on a car that didn’t run and unable to sue because of an arbitration clause in her contract. The bill under consideration would outlaw such practices and would have allowed Rice to pursue her claims in court. When Cannon, the ranking Republican on the committee, got his turn to question the witnesses, he said that rather than ask questions, he intended to lecture, and his main target was Rice herself.
Cannon went on an incoherent digression that included talk of combating socialism and communism, and his youthful interest in the famous French philosophy tome, The Social Contract. After he finished his socialism lecture, Cannon told Rice that perhaps it was just time to “go on with [her] life” and forget about fighting the car dealer. Just pay for the car and move on, he counseled, because “the alternative is to say that the government take care of it.” Cannon recommended that rather than petition Congress, Rice ought to simply tell all of her friends what a “creep” the car dealer was so they won’t shop there. “Creepy people do creepy things,” Cannon declared.
Canon’s performance ought to give Utah residents pause when they go to the polls in November. If he is reelected, a record number of GOP retirements in the House will launch him upwards in the House leadership ranks, possibly to co-chair the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee, even though the nonprofit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has tagged Cannon as one of the most corrupt members of Congress. (He unabashedly helped out some of his lobbyist-brother’s clients, among other things.) Either way, his inability to grasp the basics of the auto arbitration bill heartened some of the consumer advocates in the room. After the hearing yesterday, Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, which supports the bill, observed that if Cannon was the GOP defense on the bill, “We could win this one.”