Congress yesterday moved a step closer toward imposing its first veto over a Federal Trade Commission rule.
By a 12 to 4 vote, the Senate Commerce Committee approved a resolution to kill the agency's used-car regulation that would require automobile dealers to disclose more information to consumers about the cars they sell.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee also voted 15 to 4 in favor of a veto. However, because that vote didn't constitute a quorum, an objection was raised and the vote did not become final. The House committee is scheduled to vote again this morning.
But even if the committee is not able to get a quorum today and complete action, the House still may get a chance to consider the veto. Its sponsors have gotten enough signatures on a special discharge petition to allow the veto proposal to be brought to the floor without the normal committee approval.
Congressional aides predict the veto will pass in both the House and Senate if it comes up before the Christmas recess. Opponents of the veto hope to delay a vote until the next session, hoping to garner enough public support in favor of the regulation.
At issue is an FTC regulation that would require dealers to post a one-page sticker on all used cars telling consumers what their warranty rights are, as well as describing any major defects in the car known to the dealer.
The FTC and consumer groups have argued that the rule is needed to protect customers from disreputable auto dealers. However, auto dealers say that the rule is unclear and would impose onerous requirements on small businessmen.
Under 1980 legislation, Congress gave itself the power to overturn any FTC rule by a majority vote in both houses. If the veto does pass, it will be the first time any FTC rule has been overturned by Congress.
Proponents of the rule argue that a veto of the very first rule to come before Congress for review would set a bad precedent, sending a signal to business that Congress is willing to undo any FTC rule.
In the Senate, only Republicans voted against the veto, including Commerce Committee Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.).