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Industry fares well in Congress.

This year's victories include the Clean Water Act, risk assessment, health care, striker replacement, OSHA reform, energy tax and NAFTA.

In early October, the House and one-third of the Senate left Washington to face a surly public at the polls after the media tagged them as the most unproductive Congress in recent memory. As pundits and prognosticators spun their analysis, congressional Republicans were blamed for stealing what should have been easy victories for President Clinton.

The 103rd Congress was actually characterized by disagreement among congressional Democrats who stood in the way of White House progress on a number of crucial debates. Late in the campaign season, Democrats were still running away from Clinton in droves. Moreover, while Congress recessed on October 8, Clinton called members back for a post-election, lame-duck session on November 29 to debate and vote on GATT legislation.

Many of the legislative proposals that failed this year will be on the agenda for the 104th Congress, which convenes in late January. Republicans are expected to make substantial gains in both the House and the Senate this month. Regardless of which party has control, the Clinton administration will have to contend with a Congress that's shifting to the right.

Below is a recap of legislative activity AFS has been involved in during the last two years, along with highlights of important victories for foundries.

Environmental

Clean Water--Rewriting this act was a top environmental priority for this Congress. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's 600-page initiative included provisions to ratchet up toxics controls for industry, impose new permitting fees, expand authority for environmental groups to sue industry and streamline the wetlands permitting program.

While the Senate bill moved out of committee, the House clean water legislation stalled after key House Public Works Committee Democrats mutinied against Chairman Norman Mineta. After allying with Republicans, moderate Democrats demanded changes to the House water bill. Mineta ultimately wouldn't budge, and the measure was dead by early fall.

EPA Cabinet Elevation--Legislation to formally elevate the EPA to the president's Cabinet was originally slated as one of the likely environmental successes to emerge from this Congress. After passing twice in the Senate, it stalled in the House after a bipartisan coalition of regulatory reform advocates demanded tougher cost-benefit requirements be applied to all major new EPA regulations. The House Democratic leadership pulled the bill after failing to garner support for the measure without cost-benefit changes.

Risk--A new style of debate over how the nation deals with health and environmental risks from industry was a key development this Congress. For the first time in more than two decades, industry, states and local government interests coalesced in opposing costly environmental mandates and intrusive regulations. A cascade of legislative proposals to address regulatory overreach and the science of assessing industry risks fell upon several House and Senate committees.

AFS worked closely with a number of other key industry groups on initiatives to promote scientifically sound risk assessment at EPA, risk-based priority-setting in environmental programs, tougher cost-benefit analysis of health and environmental regulations, and greater accountability and openness in EPA's technical risk assessment process that drives pollution standards. Major environmental legislation fell by the wayside this session mainly because many members were unwilling to pass new measures without reforming the way EPA regulates risks.

Superfund--Fixing the badly broken Superfund toxics cleanup law also remained a top environmental priority. Many industry proponents of Superfund reform, environmentalists, insurers and EPA agreed on an impressive rewrite package in early fall. The parties, however, couldn't surmount a handful of thorny issues that emerged at the last minute. Two days before the end of Congress, reform leaders were forced to abandon Superfund passage.

The proposal would create a new allocation system to divide liability more equitably. Also, cleanup standards would be more closely tied to future use of sites--sites for future industrial uses wouldn't have to meet the same tough standards as those designated for residential development.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)--Solid and hazardous waste legislation was on the backburner most of the Congress, while key committees in both chambers attended to other environmental debates. Watch for these issues to return next year in one form or another.

Labor

Health-Care Reform--Health care dominated the attention of Capitol Hill lawmakers in 1994, leaving little time for other legislative business. Clinton's complex, 1000-page reform package aimed for universal health insurance coverage by requiring that people buy private insurance and that their employers pay most of the cost.

After months of congressional hearings and markups by five committees, as well as lengthy debate on the Senate floor, neither chamber ever voted on a health-care bill. The reform effort was abandoned in September in the wake of small-business opposition to employers mandates, the public's distrust of a big government approach to reform and internal disputes among Democrats. Health-care reform will likely be back next year, but on a smaller scale.

Striker Replacement--One of the bigger victories for business came when legislation prohibiting companies from permanently replacing striking workers died this summer after the Senate couldn't shut down a filibuster. The vote to limit debate and proceed to the bill failed by seven votes. The House passed similar legislation early in the session and striker replacement opponents expected a much closer vote in the Senate. In the end, several Democrats joined Republicans in the filibuster.

Family Medical Leave--Congress gave Clinton his first legislative victory when

it passed the family leave bill in 1993. The law guarantees workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical emergencies and births.

Product Liability--U.S. manufacturers have been pushing for product liability reform for more than a decade. Unfortunately, a major product liability initiative died in the Senate last summer when a motion to shut off debate fell three votes shy of the 60 needed to proceed. The key sponsors of this measure in both parties have said they will try again in 1995.

OSHA Reform--The defeat of the striker replacement measure also signaled the death of the expansive OSHA reform bill, although passage of OSHA appeared possible earlier in the session. After the administration fully endorsed the Kennedy/Ford bill last February, House labor panel Chairman Bill Ford steamrolled committee Republicans to move the legislation to the floor.

Organized labor's momentum faltered as industry rallied to convince key moderate House Democrats the OSHA bill was the wrong solution to workplace threats. With OSHA already facing diminished prospects for passageon the House floor and Sen. Edward Kennedy preoccupied with health care in the labor committee, the Senate defeat of the House-approved striker bill killed OSHA reform's chances for passage this year.

Taxes

Tax Bill--Industry successfully beat back an attempt by the Clinton administration to include a broad-based energy consumption tax in the budget deficit package. Business didn't succeed, however, in stopping lawmakers from increasing the tax rates of Subchapter S corporations.

Trade

NAFTA--On the international front, both parties worked in 1993 to pass legislation that put the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into effect. On January 1, 1994, a free-trade zone among the U.S., Mexico and Canada was started, lowering many trade barriers with Mexico.

GATT--The House and Senate will return at the end of November for a special lame-duck session to act on legislation implementing a new world trade agreement strengthening the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The pact would slash tariffs, remove or reduce other trade barriers and create a new World Trade Organization to oversee and enforce trade agreements among the U.S. and 116 other nations.

Since Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ernest Hollings (D-SC), blocked the measure by taking a full 45 days granted under the Senate rules to review GATT, the likely victory of GATT will come after the November elections.

Outlook

AFS is already preparing its legislative game plan for the challenges sure to face the industry in the 104th Congress. While Congress in theory may be more "industry friendly," most new faces on Capitol Hill will have never seen a foundry, much less understand the importance of the industry to the nation's future security and manufacturing base.

More importantly, it appears that federal agencies will be pressing the limits of their regulatory authority to further a White House agenda that was foiled this year by Congress. The months leading up to January will be very critical.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:metalcasting and founding industry
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Nov 1, 1994
Words:1389
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