Last week supplier executives went to Washington looking for respect and consideration on key issues such as ways to slow increases in the cost of health care and pension plans. But the trek to Capitol Hill by members of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association is unlikely to generate any more action than visits three weeks earlier by the CEOs of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group.
This is an election year, and Congress is polarized. That means substantive issues that require broad support don't stand a chance. Still, several smaller things can be done to help the industry:
- Congress must resolve the pension bill impasse. Whether or not Congress accepts that GM has done enough to shore up its pension plans, closure of this issue would let the industry move forward.
- Congress and the Bush administration ought to use grants and regulations if necessary to implement wider use of electronic medical records. That would save time and money and insure accuracy.
- Congress should give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the authority to fix corporate average fuel economy standards for passenger cars just as it did for trucks, even if the agency raises the standard of 27.5 mpg for the first time since 1990.
- Congress and the administration must encourage Big Oil to install more E85 pumps. The tax credit included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 may not be enough to get E85 pumps installed across the country, so Congress should consider direct reimbursement of installation costs. If that doesn't work, use mandates.
The industry can ill afford to have official Washington allow political gamesmanship to interfere with what ought to be done.