Washington Update | NIADA Government Report

By Brett Scott

NIADA is your voice in Washington D.C., advocating for independent dealers, the used vehicle industry and small business. Here’s a look at the latest news and NIADA efforts regarding legislative, regulatory, PAC and grass roots activities.

LEGISLATIVE

Infrastructure: After negotiations between the Administration and Senate Republicans over President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan broke down, a bipartisan group of 20 senators stepped in with a compromise plan that at press time seemed to be gaining traction.

The group, led by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), has proposed a package that would cost $973 billion over five years or $1.2 trillion over eight, and it focuses on traditional infrastructure, including roads, bridges, rail transportation, ports, airports, water, power and broadband.

The proposal would not alter the current tax structure – the projects would be paid for with a combination of sources that includes repurposing unused COVID relief funds, indexing the gas tax to inflation, a surcharge on electric vehicles and private-sector investments.

The White House and some Democrats have balked at that plan, preferring to fund the bill by raising income taxes on corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000 per year.

As talks continue on that plan, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and more liberal Democrats are backing a massive $6 trillion proposal that would begin with infrastructure but would also include funding for childcare, health care, addressing climate change, pre-kindergarten and community college access, job training and an expansion of Medicare.

Passing that package through budget reconciliation would require the support of all 50 Democratic senators, which will be difficult given the opposition of moderates such as Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to such huge price tags.

Recalls: Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced an amendment to ban the sale of all vehicles with an open recall as part of the Surface Transportation Investment Act, a $78 billion package addressing issues involving vehicles, highways and rail transportation that was being considered by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

But with the help of a strong lobbying effort by NIADA and its members, in conjunction with other auto industry organizations, the amendment was withdrawn before it could be voted on.

The bill – without the Blumenthal amendment – was approved by the committee by an overwhelming 25-3 margin and now moves on to the full Senate.

Clean Energy for America Act: The bill, which would consolidate more than 40 energy tax incentives into one set of emissions-based provisions to encourage clean electricity, clean transportation and energy efficiency, advanced to the full Senate following a tie vote along party lines in the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill would increase tax incentives for consumers buying electric vehicles from $7,500 to up to $12,500, adding $2,500 if the vehicle is assembled in the U.S., and another $2,500 if it is assembled by union workers.

REGULATORY

Federal Trade Commission: Lina Khan, a Columbia University law professor known as a strong critic of the technology industry’s biggest players, has been named by President Biden to chair the FTC.

Khan, 32, became the youngest FTC chair in history just hours after she was confirmed to a position on the commission by a 69-28 vote of the Senate. The President did not announce his intention to elevate Khan to the FTC’s top position before her confirmation.

Next up for regulatory nominations is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Biden’s choice for CFPB director is Rohit Chopra, who has made it clear he intends to return the bureau to the “regulation by enforcement” philosophy of former director Richard Cordray.

Chopra’s nomination advanced to the full Senate without the recommendation of the Senate Banking Committee, which split in a 12-12 vote along party lines.

At press time, a floor vote on Chopra had not yet been scheduled.

PAC

NIADA-PAC’s Coffee With Congress series got off to a strong start last month with three very successful virtual events.

The 45-minute to one-hour online conversations give NIADA members the opportunity to talk to the U.S. representative from their district to get the inside scoop of what’s happening in Washington D.C., and ask them hard questions about policy that could affect their businesses.

The recent events featured Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The wide-ranging conversations covered topics such as infrastructure negotiations, corporate tax increases, recall legislation, electric vehicles and the 2022 midterm election outlook. Dealers also asked the congressmen about CFPB regulations, potential attempts to pack the Supreme Court, their thoughts and concerns about removing the Senate filibuster and other topics NIADA continues to monitor.

GRASS ROOTS

New Jersey: New Jersey could soon become the latest state to allow vehicle sales to be completed entirely online, thanks to a bill passed last month by the state legislature.

The bill, which would authorize the use of electronic signatures on vehicle purchase documents in place of the ink signatures currently required, was sent to Gov. Phil Murphy, who was expected to sign it into law.

Murphy, who had not yet signed the bill at press time, temporarily authorized online and remote vehicle sales through an executive order in March 2020 after COVID-19 restrictions closed dealerships.

Brett Scott is NIADA vice president of government affairs.