A summit meeting of key congressional and White House people on the Clean Air Act yesterday produced agreement on one thing only: all would try to complete legislation to rewrite the law by the end of the year.
In a private 45-minute meeting in his congressional office, Vice President Bush urged the chairmen and ranking minority members of the appropriate House and Senate committees to pass legislation quickly to overhaul the statute, one of the laws most criticized by business for burdensome requirements.
"There was broad agreement that we should move expeditiously," said Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "There was some difference on the method," he added.
Bush said legislation is needed before the end of the year to give auto manufacturers adequate notice on what auto-emission standards would be required for 1983 model cars. He volunteered to be the "catalyst" to get the action finished by year's end.
Some congressional sources, however, said the administration is concerned about recent polls showing strong public sentiment for protecting the environment and wants any revisions passed before the election year begins.
Whatever the reason, an administration source indicated yesterday that, given the tight timetable, the White House may be ready to make concessions on the many changes it wants in the Clean Air Act. What the concessions would be was unclear.
Everyone acknowledged at yesterday's meeting that any measure that could be enacted before the year's end could only be "a modest one." But no one knew exactly what modest meant.
That, they hoped, would be determined shortly in meetings by each committee to see if any consensus can be reached.