Braley's "Cash for Clunkers" bill clears House

A bill to encourage consumers to purchase new and more fuel-efficient vehicles, co-sponsored by Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01), passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday by a wide margin of 298 to 119, with two members voting “present.”

The roll call shows 59 yes votes from Republicans, including Iowa’s Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05). Leonard Boswell (IA-03) also voted for the bill. Braley and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) were not present for the roll call, but it’s safe to assume that Loebsack would have voted for it, since only a handful of the most conservative House Democrats voted no.

Braley said in a statement,

“The passage of Cash for Clunkers legislation will help boost our economy, save families money, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Braley said.  “Cash for Clunkers is a common-sense idea that can have a big impact on the economy, reducing emissions and saving American jobs by jumpstarting the auto industry.  I hope the passage of this bill today is a sign that this program will start benefiting families and American workers as soon as possible.”

In my opinion, this bill has much more potential to spur new car purchases and save jobs than it does to reduce emissions or our dependence on foreign oil. The increased fuel-efficiency requirements are quite modest (presumably because American car manufacturers have done a poor job of increasing fuel efficiency).

The original draft of the bill set more ambitious mileage requirements, but that changed during negotiations over the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill, to which this measure was attached:

The compromise also waters down the so-called cash-for-clunkers program*, which ostensibly encourages drivers to turn in their gas guzzlers in exchange for a federal subsidy on more fuel efficient models. Yet under the compromise proposal, the new fuel efficiencies are hardly dramatic. For example, drivers trading in trucks between 6,000 and 8,500 pounds would be eligible for a $3,500 voucher for purchasing the same-sized vehicle that’s more efficient by just 1 mile per gallon.

Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said the program does much more to help struggling automakers sell large, unpopular models than it does to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“It’s a $4 billion giveaway to move gas guzzling vehicles that nobody wants off the lots,” Becker said.

After the jump I’ve posted the press release from Braley’s office and the information from an accompanying fact sheet on how this bill would work.

June 9 press release from Congressman Bruce Braley’s office:

Washington, DC – Today, the US House passed H.R. 2751, the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Act, which establishes a “Cash for Clunkers” program providing vouchers of up to $4,500 to consumers who trade in old, fuel-inefficient vehicles for new, fuel-efficient ones.  The CARS Act, which passed the House by a vote of 298-119-2, was introduced by Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa).

“The passage of Cash for Clunkers legislation will help boost our economy, save families money, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Braley said.  “Cash for Clunkers is a common-sense idea that can have a big impact on the economy, reducing emissions and saving American jobs by jumpstarting the auto industry.  I hope the passage of this bill today is a sign that this program will start benefiting families and American workers as soon as possible.”

The CARS Act provides consumers with incentives of $3,500 or $4,500 to purchase new, fuel-efficient vehicles, depending on the improvement in fuel economy of the new vehicle.

The CARS Act is similar to a compromise reached between the White House and Congress to include a “Cash for Clunkers” program in the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act.  Braley and Sutton also introduced this compromise, which passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last month.  In March, Braley and Sutton introduced the original version of the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Act with Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI).

Excerpts from the fact sheet issued by Braley’s office:

Under the CARS Act, the Cash for Clunkers program will be authorized for up to one year.  Trade-in vehicles must be in drivable condition; have been continuously insured to the same owner for at least a year prior to trade-in; manufactured in model year 1984 or later; and have a combined fuel economy of 18 mpg or less.

The agreement divides new cars and trucks into four categories, with consumers receiving incentives as follows.  Miles per gallon figures below refer to EPA “window sticker” values.

Note from desmoinesdem: the table did not come through, but here’s what it said. The minimum fuel economy for the new vehicles will be 22 mpg (EPA combined) for a passenger car, 18 mpg (EPA combined) for a light-duty truck, and 15 mpg (EPA combined) for a large light-duty truck weighing 6,00 to 8,500 pounds. There is no minimum fuel economy requirement for new work trucks weighing 8,500 to 10,000 pounds.

Consumers are eligible for a $3,500 voucher toward the purchase of a new passenger car if the new car will have a mileage improvement of at least 4 mpg.

Consumers are eligible for a $3,500 voucher toward a new light-duty truck if the new vehicle will have a mileage improvement of at least 2 mpg.

Consumers are eligible for a $3,500 voucher toward a new large light-duty truck if the new vehicle will have a mileage improvement of at least 1 mpg, or if they are trading in a work truck to buy it.

Consumers are eligible for a $3,500 voucher toward a new work truck if the work truck they are trading in is a pre-2002 model.

Consumers are eligible for a $4,500 voucher toward the purchase of a new passenger car if the new car will have a mileage improvement of at least 10 mpg.

Consumers are eligible for a $4,500 voucher toward a new light-duty truck if the new vehicle will have a mileage improvement of at least 5 mpg.

Consumers are eligible for a $4,500 voucher toward a new large light-duty truck if the new vehicle will have a mileage improvement of at least 2 mpg.

Back to the fact sheet from Braley’s office:

• Consumers must trade-in a vehicle with a maximum combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 mpg or less to be eligible for vehicle purchase vouchers.  Work trucks must be traded in for work trucks.

• Eligible vehicles must have an MSRP of $45,000 or less.

• Vehicle lease terms must be for a minimum of five years.

• The program is authorized for $4 billion which will provide for the purchase of approximately one million new vehicles.

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