By Bill Allmond, Vice President Government and Public Relations -
Next week’s election for president will set the course of public policy for many years to come and the choices between President Obama and Governor Romney couldn’t be more stark. Whoever emerges as the victor will be in a position to advance forward, or pull back, on a number of issues from the economy to national defense to industry regulations to taxes.
Although Congress’ job is to pass legislation, the president sets the agenda as well as the tone of discussion on policy debates. Most importantly, laws aren’t passed unless the president signs them.
Some argue that, regardless of which candidate wins the White House next week, he will be kept in check because control of Congress will continue to be split; Republicans ruling the House and Democrats ruling the Senate. To some extent, I agree with this viewpoint. President Obama’s creative agenda has been shut down since 2010, when Republicans won control of the House. However, there is a major unknown that should give us pause: the next election cycle is just two years away. Every member of the House will be up for reelection again, with many senators as well. Depending on the mood of the nation in 2014, which can’t possibly be predicted in 2012, both houses of Congress could be controlled by Republicans or Democrats, making the occupant of the White House that much more important. No matter which party succeeds in the 2014 Congressional elections, the president—Obama or Romney—will have two more years left in his term. That is plenty of time to influence policy that has lasting effect.
Presidents can also influence existing policy through their administrations. They can choose to have activist agencies or they can rein them in. For example, former President Bush ran an Environmental Protection Agency that was much more collaborative with industry than has President Obama, particularly the way in which potential chemical hazards are managed under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Furthermore, the pace and scrutiny of proposed regulations often reflect who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Office of Management and Budget, which is controlled by the White House, reviews regulatory proposals before they go final and Republican administrations often are more critical than accommodating.
This brings me back to my original point about next week’s presidential election. On most major issues important to specialty, batch, and custom chemical manufacturers, from taxes to regulation, the gap between the two candidates couldn’t be wider. Their stance on any one of these issues could change the course of how they currently impact our industry. The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates does not endorse candidates, but we do provide you with knowledge on where the candidates stand on our industry priorities. Be sure to visit our Election 2012 website, SOCMAvotes.com, and tune in on election night as we track the results. SOCMA will also provide you with election analysis in a Town Hall Teleconference on Thursday, November 8, at 11:00 AM EST. Please contact Johanna Morsberger if you would like to listen in.