U.S Congress, Chemicals and You

Posted on 7/1/2014 2:15:01 PM By Matt Croson

Two weeks ago, I had the distinct honor to have lunch with Vice President Biden and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  I also had breakfast with Sen. Coons (D-DE).  I should be clear here:  I was in a room with 400 other manufacturers and association leaders and was participating in the National Association of Manufacturers Fly-In!

A Fly-In is something many associations host every year to add value to their membership.  The basic focus of the program is typically a day of speakers, perhaps in the morning of each day, followed by afternoon visits to Capitol Hill offices to meet elected officials or their staffs.

ASC participated in this specific event in partnership with NAM – a group that aligns with many of our legislative and regulatory issues.

ASC came to the Hill with four leaders who support ASC’s efforts to deliver on its promise to proactively represent the Council, including:

ASC Chair Rusty Thompson, President and CEO of Evans Adhesive Corporation

Board Member Forest Driggs, Vice President of Finance and Development, Franklin International

Regulatory Affairs Chair Neema Toolaabee, Manager of Regulatory and Environmental Affairs, DAP

Regulatory Affairs Committee Member Stacey Ann Taylor, Director of Product Stewardship, Henry Company

We were pleased to meet directly with many Senators, including Senators Portman (R-OH), Brown, (D-OH), Booker, (D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Carper (D-DE), Coons (D-DE), Casey (R-PA and Warner (D-VA), as well as Congressman Barrow (R-GA).

Our message was simple, and generally expressed as follows:

  • Senator, the Energy and Public Works Committee is actively discussing Sen. 1009, which would update the Toxic Substance Control Act.  The law hasn’t been updated since 1976, and it’s time.  ASC supports this bi-partisan Bill that features 13 Republicans and 12 Democrats, and we are aware of a House version that is also being developed.  We urge you to support this Bill, once it comes out of committee, and stand ready to come back up to the Hill and explain any aspect of the Bill to bring you or your team up to speed on a complex issue. 

The good news on these visits:  Every single Senator was at least vaguely aware of the Bill.  Many democrats properly referenced it as Sen. Lautenberg’s bill….Republicans also were aware and one noted that they saw it as an opportunity to work across the aisles.

The bad news:  Working across the aisles isn’t happening….and it’s not going to happen any time soon.

Why:  A short synopsis of why could be discussed the evening of the first night when Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his primary challenge.  Rep. Cantor was supposed to be the breakfast keynote on Wednesday, but Sen. Coons graciously filled in for him.

What is the impact of that primary challenge pragmatically?

Many Republicans will go further right, and hold up everything out of the House or Senate using whatever means they can, especially in the House.

Many Democrats will go further left, and hold up everything out of the House or Senate using whatever means they can, especially in the Senate. 

Oh – and any chance for bi-partisan led TSCA Reform goes by the wayside, giving NGOs another year of fundraising on the “dangers of chemicals,” while corporations are left to waste resources defending chemistry.

So, the question becomes, was ASC’s Fly-in with NAM a success?

Yes and no.  Yes because we got to hear firsthand just how broken our system has become, directly from the leaders put into position to effect change.  And, no because we won’t be able to define a strong ROI via legislation that is moved forward.

What’s next?

I suspect the United States’ system of Government, with its focus on three primary branches— legislative, executive and judicial—will transition from battles between the legislative and executive branches to everyone going to the judicial branch to solve issues.

We are seeing this with the Affordable Care Act….

We are seeing this is with the National Labor Relations Board….

We are seeing this with concern for the policies of the National Security Agency………

And just last week, House Speaker John Boehner confirmed that he is planning to sue President Obama over the administration’s executive authority to enforce laws.

In fact, some of the larger associations are starting to adjust their value proposition to address this macro trend.

Ever heard of the U.S. Chambers Institute for Legal Reform?

Did you know the National Association of Manufacturers created a Center of Legal Action last year?

Are you aware of the American Chemistry Council’s many active lawsuits cover everything from BPA to Prop 65 listings?

These groups are recognizing that the legislative and regulatory side of our government is broken, and rather than wait for the electorate to “fix” the problem via the voting process, have elected to engage the Judiciary—one of the only places within the U.S. system of government that actually produces.

Insert your lawyer joke here, but that is exactly where we are heading—to court to fix everything either Congress or the White House creates. 

We all better start saving up for the legal fees.

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