What to expect from Round 2 of the Toyota hearings on the Hill

Wednesday, February 24, 2010; A11

Toyota executives Wednesday will face a House panel led by Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Towns, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Issa, the ranking Republican, discuss their priorities for the second of three Toyota hearings this week:

What do you hope to learn?

Towns: We want to make sure that they're really reaching out and recalling these cars in an aggressive fashion to make sure these cars are safe. We're concerned about safety -- that's the real issue.

Issa: We look forward to potentially hearing from the secretary of transportation that he has a vision for better, more consistent oversight and a greater reach for problems that are being solved in other countries or at least seen in other countries than he did in the past. These are mistakes that we've seen NHTSA [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] has made and made repeatedly.

Why is your committee -- which normally focuses on government issues -- so concerned with Toyota?

Towns: The secretary of transportation [Ray LaHood] is going to be one of the witnesses. We have to make certain that people driving these cars are safe. That's definitely a government function.

Issa: Because NHTSA's failure to do its job is directly in the middle of our jurisdiction. . . . We see a clear absence in adherence to laws they already have at NHTSA.

What if you don't hear what you want on Wednesday?

Towns: I'm hoping that they will convince us that they're going about this in a very aggressive fashion. . . . And of course we want to hear from NHTSA that they feel comfortable in regards to what's going on.

Issa: If my questions aren't answered satisfactorily at the beginning, every [Republican] member of the committee will ask it until we get answers.

Do you or someone you know own a Toyota?

Towns: I don't own a Toyota, but I do have family members and friends that have Toyotas, and I want to make sure they're safe.

Issa: I own a Prius here in Washington. My wife primarily drives it. . . . It's the No. 1-selling hybrid in the world . . . It's one of the reasons you have 8.5 million cars in these recalls.

-- Ed O'Keefe

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