Consumer Affairs Policy in the Senate
June 27, 2014
Author: Emma Connolly, C’16
As an intern in the office of Senator Richard Blumenthal, no two days are the same. While intern responsibilities like sorting constituent correspondence and answering phones are constant, each day I attend different briefings or hearings and complete a variety of tasks for staffers. During my first four weeks as an intern, I have learned about an array of policy areas such as health care, gun control, and sexual assault on college campuses by compiling information, writing memos, and drafting letters for staffers. One topic that I have learned about extensively is consumer protection, a topic that I had never considered an area of interest before starting my internship. On the third day of my internship, our office’s legislative correspondent responsible for consumer affairs asked for a volunteer to compile news about consumer protection on a daily basis, and I decided to volunteer.
I was tasked with combing through the business blogs, consumer blogs, tech blogs, and business sections of major newspapers every morning in order to find the latest news about consumer protection. I then organize these news clips and send them out to several staffers who work on these issues. This duty has allowed me to learn extensively about policy related to consumer affairs, ranging from important mergers, to food and drug regulation, to car and product safety. Through researching these topics, I have learned how Congress interacts with the private sector in order to create policy which works to keep consumers safe from physical and financial harm.
One topic that has been predominant in consumer protection news is the General Motors recall. General Motors has been under scrutiny since the February announcement that the company has failed to recall millions of defective cars, which have been tied to at least 13 deaths and 54 accidents. Last week, GM CEO Mary Barra testified in front of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee about the recalls and what GM is doing as it moves forward to keep drivers safe from the faulty ignition switches that have caused these safety issues. This process has taught me how Congress works directly and indirectly to keep companies accountable for their products in order to protect constituents.
Another topic that has been dominating business news is the pending $48.5 billion AT&T and DirectTV merger. Recently, the Senate and House Judiciary Subcommittees on Antitrust held hearings about the merger and its possible effects. This pending merger is part of a larger trend of consolidation of telecom companies, which some say will lead to worse service and fewer options for consumers. The merger is certainly a policy issue to watch, as Congress could impact whether or not the merger is approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
These are only a few of the topics included in the wide of range of policy that concerns consumer protection. While these issues were not my main policy interest coming into my internship, I have learned about how they are extremely important to Senators and Congressmen as they relate to the wellbeing of every constituent consumer in the nation.
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