Volume 12, Issue 1 - January/February 2011

WDMA Update

112th Congress Convenes with Dollar Signs in Mind
by Michael O’Brien

Reining in government spending was a prominent theme of last fall’s campaigns, but newly seated members of Congress quickly will realize the challenges of working with the federal budget. In 2010, Congress failed to even pass a budget resolution, due to internal strife among House Democrats. While the Republicans now control the House, where tax and spending legislation originates, they must still work with a Democrat-led Senate and Democratic president if they hope to pass significant reforms.

At the end of the year, attention turned from tax cuts to broader questions of how best to address the federal deficit. In November, the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) released a draft of their proposal for deficit reduction. The draft would drastically reduce some tax rates, simplify the tax code and broaden the tax base to slash $3.9 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Unfortunately it proposes doing so by doing away with a number of enormously popular tax breaks, including the mortgage interest deduction.

The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) was quick to come out against such a move, even launching a Facebook campaign called “Save My MID.” (Check it out at www.facebook.com/savemymid.) While the Commission could have forced a Congressional vote on its proposal with the support of 14 of its 18 members, in the absence of that plurality it is not a legislative vehicle on its own, but more likely to be the starting point from which negotiations will begin.

The new Congress brings new leadership to a number of committees with jurisdiction over key issues for the door, window and skylight industry. While Committee rosters won’t be set officially until after the 112th Congress convenes in January, House Republicans are already preparing to expand their oversight of federal agencies. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, in particular, has the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions firmly in its crosshairs. As overregulation by the EPA and other agencies threatens the competitiveness of our domestic manufacturing base, WDMA looks forward to working with Congress to make sure members are aware of the effects of proposed regulations on the industry.

With Republican control in the House, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade approach to energy policy advanced in 2009 is now a non-starter. WDMA will continue to work with allies on both sides of the aisle to ensure that energy efficiency is a core component of any new energy policy that is proposed. We will continue to educate members about the power of incentives for door, window and skylight replacement to reduce energy consumption and preserve jobs for American manufacturers and our supply chain. We will also continue to support Energy Star® and to ensure that product specifications in retrofitting programs or credits are based on sound science, reflecting manufacturing capability and consumer affordability.

"The House Energy and Commerce Committee, in particular, has the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions firmly in its crosshairs."

As the economy and the housing market in particular struggle to get back on track, providing certainty to business owners is imperative. As Congress tinkers with tax code changes, considers energy policy and attempts to rein in overregulation, it will be incumbent upon manufacturers to weigh in with their legislators about how their actions will impact the industry. In a divided Congress, compromise will be needed if we are to achieve business-friendly victories in the next two years. Please visit www.wdma.com and our Legislative Action Center to weigh in on these issues as they come up for debate. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with your elected officials, and consider sending a welcome letter to any new legislators in districts where you have facilities. Also, please mark your calendars to join WDMA in Washington, D.C., for our spring Legislative Conference, March 14-16. There are more than 100 new members of Congress who need to hear from you.

Michael O’Brien serves as president of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. His opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


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