Blumenthal, the chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over transportation safety issues, recently wrote to the head of NHTSA requesting answers from the agency regarding the General Motors recall of about 1.7 million vehicles with faulty ignition switches.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., has expressed frustration that the GM problems nevertheless went unnoticed. He said NHTSA chief Friedman’s testimony would be “essential to getting answers about what went wrong.”
New GM Chief Executive Mary T. Barra is also expected to testify to Upton’s panel next week.
Safety advocates including Ditlow and Public Citizen President Emeritus Joan Claybrook, who led NHTSA during the Carter administrator, said a big problem facing regulators is inadequate resources. Congress, they suggest, has itself to blame for not appropriating enough money to get the job done.
At hearings that followed the Toyota recall, Claybrook told lawmakers that NHTSA’s annual vehicle safety budget should have been “doubled” from its level of about $133 million. But in fiscal 2014, the agency’s appropriations for such programs increased to just $134 million.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.