The Senate Finance Committee yesterday gave new life to House-passed legislation sought by the United Auto Workers and the Ford Motor Co. to restrict sales of Japanese cars and trucks here. But before the measure could leave the committee's operating room it was pronounced on the Senate's critical list by Finance Committee Chairman Russell Long (D-La.).
The committee passed by an 11-to-2 vote an amended resolution that would give the president authority to negotiate with the Japanese to limit the sales of their vehicles here, a measure Ford and the UAW say is critical to the industry's economic health.
But Long, sidestepping two committee members' attempts to kill the resolution, said he wasn't optimistic that the measure would get a vote by the full Senate before Congress is scheduled to adjourn this week.
Long said some senators may try to filibuster the bill, "with the little hope that it has anyway. If you want to filibuster this bill you'll have to stand in line. There are already two filibusters going on" over the measures.
Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.) attempted to put the resolution to an early death by requesting a minority report to be attached to the committee's report on the legislation, which would have taken three days. But Long reminded him that the committee hadn't issued a report.
"You can't file supplemental views if we don't have any views," Long laughed.
"I don't think it's going to be called up anyway," Long said later.
Since the resolution was amended by the committee, even if the Senate approves the new version, it would have to go back to the House for another vote.
An aide to Sen. Donald W. Riegle (D-Mich.), who is pushing the measure in the Senate, said last night that Riegle will try to attach the auto resolution to other legislation that has a chance of passage on the crowded Senate calendar. "We're trying to find a train that's moving," the aide said. "We don't want to get hooked up with a train sitting in the yards."
However, Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.), one of the resolution's staunchest opponents, said in an interview yesterday that he would block the resolution which sailed through the House on Tuesday, and attempts to tack it onto other legislation that the Senate must approve. But he added, "In this fevered atmosphere it could pass" the Senate.
Stevenson reiterated complaints of some House members and Chaffee and Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) who voted against the measure in committee, that the legislation is being rushed through Congress. "It hasn't had one day of hearings in the Senate. It's a very dangerous bill," Stevenson said.
The proposal is intended to help repair some of the financial damage experienced by the U.S. auto industry which Ford and the UAW contend has been aggravated mainly by Japanese imports. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Donald J. Albosta (D-Mich.), was pushed through the House by Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D-Ohio) after the International Trade Commission was asked to consider restricting the numbers of imported cars and trucks. Such restrictions would add more American jobs and improve the profits of the domestic automakers, Ford and the UAW argued.
However, the ITC rebuffed Detroit and said imports weren't the cause of Detroit's problems. The recession and high gasoline prices were.
Sen. Henry J. Heinz III (R-Pa.) yesterday added an amendment, which the committee incorporated into the resolution, adding truck and car assembly parts to trucks and cars that could be restricted.