Dec. 17, 2006: Detroit Free Press—Automakers Fight for Favor in New Congress

Summary: "When Congress reconvenes in January, Detroit automakers will have a lot of friends in high places—and that has foreign automakers a little wary.

With the return to power of Michigan’s congressional Democrats—who will head three key committees and have significant say over the agenda on Capitol Hill—lawmakers are expected to revive several proposals aimed at helping the domestic industry.

In the last Congress, that list included tax credits for revamping old factories and pushing government agencies to buy more flex-fuel vehicles.

But foreign automakers say lawmakers should not tailor such plans to benefit Detroit at their expense, as some past proposals would have done. A debate between Japanese and U.S. automakers over expanding consumer incentives for hybrid vehicles may show just how much political support foreign companies have from the growing number of states where they build vehicles."

Michigan vs. Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee? That’s what the squabble might boil down to. Even if the practice of earmarking bills fades away, the power of lawmakers to send pork back to their constituents won’t fade by much.

The new-style pork will come wrapped in laws that affect the entire country for the benefit of one district—like limiting tax credits for consumers of popular hybrids—instead of being hidden as line-item requests.

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