Pelosi: "The American people, in every region of the country, overwhelmingly support stronger fuel-efficiency standards"
Gordon Trowbridge – Detroit News – August 2, 2007
WASHINGTON -- House leaders decided Wednesday to put off a potentially divisive fight over auto fuel-economy rules, leaving until September the debate over how high a hurdle they'll set for the embattled domestic carmakers.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Wednesday that the House will not consider competing proposals to change Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards when the House takes up a comprehensive energy bill this week. The House is expected to vote on the package this week.
The decision means the Big 3 automakers have dodged, for now, passage of a tough set of CAFE standards proposed by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., which would have boosted vehicle mileage to 35 miles per gallon by 2019. It has wide support among House Democrats, including Pelosi.
Markey agreed to withdraw his proposal, offered as an amendment to the energy bill, as did Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., who had offered a weaker set of mileage standards favored by the auto industry.
Despite the reprieve, it is unclear whether Wednesday's decision to delay the debate is good news, in the long run, for the Big 3. It's possible the issue won't be resolved until a House-Senate conference committee meets to iron out differences between the competing versions of the bill. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, who generally favor tougher standards, will appoint members of the conference committee.
House Democrats also avoided what could have been a difficult intra-party battle. Pelosi and many other House Democrats favor higher standards than the auto industry supports. But Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, powerful chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and perhaps the Big 3's biggest advocate in Washington, has sparred with Pelosi over CAFE.
Car companies, including the domestic carmakers and some foreign firms, have opposed high mileage standards such as those in the Markey plan, calling them unachievable.
Environmental groups have kept up the pressure for higher standards, saying they are vital to fight global climate change. Supporters of higher standards won a victory earlier this year in the Senate, which approved a set of CAFE proposals opposed by the industry and by Michigan lawmakers.