Congressional attempts to overturn the Federal Trade Commission's used-car rule fizzled out yesterday--at least for now.
Through a complicated parliamentary maneuver, Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a proponent of the rule, blocked the Senate from considering legislation to veto the rule.
The rule would require used-car dealers to disclose more information to consumers about the cars they sell by posting a one-page sticker on cars disclosing any known major defects about each car and telling consumers what their warranty rights are.
Used-car dealers vigorously oppose the rule as too onerous, and have been lobbying Congress to overturn it. Congressional aides had predicted that the legislative veto would have passed had the Senate been able to vote on the proposal.
However, as a result of Packwood's move, the Senate will not consider the rule before Congress adjourns next week for the Christmas recess.
Even so, the rule, issued last August, will not go into effect. Under legislation passed in 1980, no FTC rule can go into effect until Congress has had 90 days to review the rule--and veto it, if it wants to, by a majority vote of both houses.
Because Congress' scheduled adjournment next week is before the 90-day period runs out, the law requires the FTC to resubmit the rule to Congress for another 90-day review period after it reconvenes.
Nonetheless, the delay is a victory for the consumer movement, which has supported the rule as one that will protect consumers from fraud and deception from unscrupulous car dealers. Consumer lobbyists believe that the more time they have to notify consumers about the rule, the more support they will garner for it. What's more, with elections next year, they believe many members of Congress may be reluctant to vote against a rule that is regarded as pro-consumer.
Packwood's maneuver came the same day that the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 27-14 to veto the rule. Supporters of the veto intially had hoped to get a House vote this Monday, but their plans may change as a result of the Senate action yesterday.
Although congressional aides say the FTC must resubmit the same rule when Congress reconvenes in January, some FTC officials say there may be an attempt to redo the rule before sending it to Congress to give Chairman James C. Miller III a chance to have some influence over the rule. The rule was issued before he came to the commission.