WASHINGTON-Representatives of tire dealers, retreaders and rubber manufacturers, generally were pleased with the massive Republican sweep in the Nov. 8 congressional elections. A more conservative Congress, they said, will create a more congenial climate for business in general over the next two years. More specifically, they predicted quick action on Superfund legislation, probable tax cuts and a better chance for the passage of product liability reform than in any previous Congress.
The GOP gained nine seats in the Senate for a 53-47 majority. They also gained more than 50 seats in the House-far more than the 40 they had needed to win control-giving the GOP its first complete control of Congress in 40 years.
Many powerful Democratic congressmen-including House Speaker Thomas Foley of Washington, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks of Texas-were sent packing. But not one Republican incumbent lost, and all 11 incoming freshman senators are Republicans.
This Republican resurgence means industry should expect big breaks in both tax and environmental laws, according to Roy E. Littlefield III, government relations director of the American Retreaders' Association.
``The auto aftermarket alone has spent $33 billion on complying with the Clean Air Act,'' he said. ``I think we'll get a breather now, with a lot of laws and regulations re-examined.''
Mr. Littlefield also expects the 104th Con-gress to pass quickly a number of bills on which no agreement could be reached in the 103rd. One of these, he said, is Superfund reauthorization, which could well be a more favorable bill for industry than in the last Congress.
``Last session, the White House would not touch retroactive liability,'' he said. ``Now that the Republicans are in control, they may well heed our requests to get it rescinded. That is crucial for our industry.''
Peter J. Pantuso, vice president of public affairs for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, agreed that a GOP Congress will be receptive to business recommendations on Superfund. ``We hope to make good, sound changes in the Superfund bill that will benefit all parties,'' he said.
The RMA generally is happy with what Mr. Pantuso called ``the overall anticipated direction'' of Congress, but he cautioned against unbridled optimism.
``Dole and Gingrich (the new Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker) aren't the only ones setting the agenda,'' he said. ``There are 535 separate agendas in the House and Senate.''
Mr. Pantuso agreed with the common wisdom that a uniform product liability law has a better chance of passage in a Republican Congress.
``There's much more opportunity to make this happen, particularly in the House,'' he said. ``In the Senate, they've at least been able to bring it to the floor.''
However, he disagreed with those who said passage of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) has been jeopardized. ``The same Congress is coming back to vote on GATT,'' said Mr. Pantuso, referring to the lame duck session scheduled at the end of the month.
Mr. Littlefield predicted quick passage of most legislation in 1995, but a return to stalemate in 1996. ``In 1995, the Republicans will make a strong attempt to share the leadership, and the Democrats will make a show of being bipartisan,'' he said. ``But 1996 is a different story, because it's an election year.''
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act will be up for reauthorization in 1996-a process fraught with peril for the auto aftermarket, according to Mr. Littlefield, because a weight-distance tax for trucks and other tax initiatives could be part of it.
``Our industry really has to be on its toes in 1995,'' he said. ``There's a new leadership, and we have got to go to Capitol Hill and meet people. It's a challenging time, but also one with opportunities for substantive gains.''
The National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association was less forthcoming on what it expected from Congress.
``There's no doubt Congress will be more conservative,'' said Charles D. ``Tony'' Hylton III, NTDRA communications director. ``But to what extent the concerns of small business will be given priority will have to be seen after the committee chairmen are chosen.''