Monday, August 03, 2009

Senate "Cash For Clunkers" Debate Should Be Interesting

Aug 3: The overwhelming consumer response to the Car Allowance Rebate Systems (CARS) or “Cash for Clunkers” program, and the House approval of an additional $2 billion to extend the program has set the stage for an interesting Senate debate on the continuation of the program [See WIMS 7/31/09]. The future of the program hinges on a positive Senate vote, which appears likely, but, not without controversy and debate extending across party and philosophical lines.

Some Senators are arguing that the program is simply another auto company "bailout" while, others are arguing that requirements of the program should be insisting on upgrading to cars with better gas mileage. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure this week before it adjourns for the August recess. The CARs website reports that the program is still operating, but it is expected to be out of funds very soon.

The House voted 316 to 109 on July 31 to extend the program with an additional $2 billion in funding. The funding authorization is included in H.R. 3435, a supplemental appropriations bill for fiscal year 2009 for the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program. The 316 votes from approval consisted of 239 Democrats and 77 Republicans. 95 Republicans and 14 Democrats voted against the passage. The House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) voted against the measure.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) called the House approval of the $2 billion extension "another outrageous act of generational theft!" and said he "will oppose any move to take up the House bill." Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) indicated he will support McCain's effort to defeat the bill. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has indicated she will support no "new" spending for cash for clunkers. She may support if it is funding already appropriated for stimulus, but she wants to see how the program will be ended.

Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety and co-chair of the Senate Auto Caucus, praised the House approval of funds to continue the program. Senator Voinovich was a co-sponsor of the original legislation creating the program, with Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sam Brownback (R-KS).

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Thomas Carper (D-DE), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) are all among a group of Senators calling for the program to require the purchase of new cars which get better gas mileage.

Senator Voinovich said, “I am glad the House passed an additional $2 billion to fund the cash for clunkers program, which I co-sponsored with Sen. Stabenow and Brownback. As is evident from the extraordinary response to the program, it is a win-win -- it will stimulate our American economy, provide much needed jobs and it will promote fuel efficient cars to benefit our environment. I am thankful the House understood that this money should be taken from the already-enacted stimulus bill, which I voted against earlier this year. Unfortunately, programs such as ‘cash for clunkers,’ as well as robust highway and infrastructure spending were not part of the original stimulus proposal. This type of investment provides not only jobs, but tangible assets for taxpayer dollars. I look forward to this program making its way to our American citizens to reinvigorate jobs for our auto workers, especially in Ohio during these hard economic times.”

President Obama issued a statement on July 31, following the House approval of funding expansion and said, ""I want to thank leaders in the House of Representatives for working quickly and in a bipartisan way to pass legislation that will use Recovery Act funds to keep 'Cash for Clunkers' going. This program has been an overwhelming success, allowing consumers to trade in their less fuel efficient cars for a credit to buy more fuel efficient new models. It has given consumers a much needed break, provided the American auto industry an important boost, and is achieving environmental benefits well beyond what was originally anticipated. The program has proven to be a successful part of our economic recovery and will help lessen our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the quality of the air we breathe. I urge the Senate to act with the American consumers in mind to pass this important legislation."

Access the House roll call vote (
click here). Access a release from Senator Voinovich (click here). Access a Twitter statement from Senator McCain (click here). Access a Twitter statement from Senator McCaskill (click here). Access a release and the DOT letter from Senators Feinstein and Collins(click here); and another release (click here). Access the Fox News report with comments from Senator McCain (click here). Access the CARS website for additional information (click here). Access a release from the President (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 3435 (click here).